Trauma disorders are mental disorders that occur as a result of an experience involving an actual or potential threat to one’s life or a loved one’s life. Although different categories of trauma exist, the most common forms of trauma center around interpersonal violence and sexual assault in adulthood and abuse in childhood. Trauma can be brief in duration with symptoms lasting for a few weeks, or trauma can be chronic with symptoms lasting for more than a month.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common types of clinical trauma.
PTSD is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, car accidents, violent personal assaults like rape, and others. A person who has been diagnosed with PTSD may have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel stressed and emotional when reminded of the event.
Other types of trauma disorders can include:
- Acute Stress Disorder manifests similar symptoms to PTSD, however Acute Stress Disorder resolves quickly compared to PTSD.
- Adjustment disorders cause disturbances to emotional or behavioral functioning that develop in response to a significant psychosocial stressor, such as marital conflict, problems at work, or school bullying among other stressors.
- Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare mental disorder that occurs in children who have experienced severe neglect or uncaring parental rejection. These patients struggle to form attachments to their caregivers and reject close relationships.
- Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED) is similar to RAD in that it is hard for children to form healthy relationships, however these patients tend to become inappropriately friendly with people they do not know well.
Did You Know?
Trauma disorders are one of the only mental health conditions that can be traced back to a single cause (experiencing trauma). However, it is not understood why not everyone is affected by trauma in the same way. This means that two people could be exposed to the same trauma, but only one may develop a trauma disorder.
There is no single test to diagnose a trauma disorder. Instead, trauma disorders are diagnosed after a physical exam, discussion of your medical history, a review of symptoms, and ruling out other conditions that cause similar physical symptoms. You will likely be asked to fill out a self-assessment and/or answer specific questions so that your provider can give you an accurate diagnosis.