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TRAUMA DISORDER

Trauma disorders can arise as a result of direct exposure to a traumatic event or being a first-hand witness to death, the threat of death, serious injury (whether actual or threatened), sexual violence, or repeated direct or indirect exposure to any of these events.

However, there is hope. If you or a loved one is struggling to overcome trauma, reach out to Peaks Recovery Center to discuss our Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center services. We are dedicated to the health and well-being of all adults. We care, and we are here to help.

WHAT ARE TRAUMA DISORDERS?

Trauma disorders are a group of disorders that are directly related to stressors that you might experience as a result of one or more experiences of a traumatic event or adverse life experiences such as abuse, abandonment, or a serious accident.

TYPES OF TRAUMA DISORDERS

There is a close correlation between these disorders and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dissociative disorder.

These disorders can arise as a result of direct exposure to a traumatic event or being a first-hand witness to death, the threat of death, serious injury (whether actual or threatened), sexual violence, or repeated direct or indirect exposure to any of these events.

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Within This Group, We Include:

  • Acute stress disorder
  • Social engagement disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attachment
  • Adjustment disorder
  • And other trauma and stress-related disorders

In children, teens, and young adults, these types of trauma disorders are much more common than you might think. Studies show that a significant number of children (about 15%) who have been exposed to some type of extreme trauma will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in later years. This is a troubling statistic, and perhaps a reflection of our society today and how we have widely accepted the presence of extreme violence and sexuality, especially in the media.

SYMPTOMS OF TRAUMA DISORDERS

Symptoms of trauma disorders can begin at a very early age and can develop into deeper fears later in life if not addressed. These symptoms can include the following:

Hyper-vigilance

Hyper-vigilance can be characterized as an inability to relax or concentrate. The person is always on their guard and will not back down. They are pre-occupied with threat. This may manifest by checking that the doors or windows are locked at all times, or sitting in a place where nobody can approach them from behind.

Avoidance

Avoidance behavior is a common coping mechanism to steer away from memories or reminders of the traumatic event. Individuals may avoid conversations, places or people that they consider to be related to or that remind them of the trauma.

Nightmares

Frequent, intense night terrors and frighteningly bad dreams may continue into adulthood if left unchecked.

Sleep Disorders

An inability to go to sleep or stay asleep, or perhaps a fear of falling asleep may prevent a trauma disorder patient from living a normal life. Sleeplessness may impact their ability to perform even the most basic tasks such as personal care, school work, or social activities.

Emotional Distress

Emotional distress, sometimes extreme, may arise when reminders of the event come about in conversation, in the media, or simply as a memory. This may cause what others might consider unexplained social anxiety or an unwillingness to engage in normal activities.

Flashbacks

Flashbacks can be described as intrusive and often unbidden thoughts and memories of the original trauma. Flashbacks could be triggered by images, words, places, people, or situations that prod the subconscious towards remembering the trauma.

Physical Reactions

Physical reactions can include stomachaches and headaches that seem to have no physical explanation. Others may put these reactions off to being “all in their head” but the pain and discomfort are very real, although unresponsive to medications that would usually work for these ailments.

Denial

There may be a tendency to deny that the trauma even took place, even if the child would have been old enough to remember it well. In the case of recent trauma, they may deny it ever occurred at all, preferring instead to bury it deep in their psyche. If unacknowledged, this denial of the traumatic event may evolve into PTSD and present more serious symptoms later in life.

Inability To Concentrate

If the observed behavior is in response to trauma triggers, what may appear to be ADHD or an unwillingness to focus could actually be PTSD. This will be characterized by repeated avoidance or frequent changing of the subject away from the upsetting issue.

Easily Startled

You may notice that trauma sufferers startle easily, either from loud noises or when exposed to situations that are similar to the original trauma. Abuse trauma, for instance, can be observed in an adverse response to physical touch, or even from a person’s hand coming close to the individual’s face.

Bleak Sense Of What The Future Holds

When trauma is severe, a child or young adult may choose to believe that they are not going to live a long life. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, a traumatized child may say that they don’t often think about that because they probably won’t be around that long.

Self-Harm, Self-Destructive Behavior

This is a direct reflection on the previous comment, in which the individual may believe that since they are not going to live that long, they don’t feel the need to make safe choices. This could manifest as poor or unsafe choices in companions, an inability to get along with others, self-harm, or extreme risk-taking. As an adult, they may find it difficult to save money, hold down a job, or go to school. Without a sense of a future, there is no impetus to advance either socially or economically.

Depression, Sadness, Hopelessness

This also ties into the idea of a foreshortened sense of what the future holds and can be characterized as an impending sense of doom, or an inability to see the potential for happiness or joy. The depression can be so severe that it prevents the individual from experiencing life at all. They may not want to leave the home, where it’s safe. Though others may think that their sadness is unfounded, it is an all-encompassing feeling that can pervade all areas of life.

Co-Occurring Addictions

In trauma disorder cases, it is not uncommon for a young adult to develop drug or alcohol addictions, or to abuse drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb their pain. Peaks Recovery Center focuses on the trauma and the addiction as separate issues and will work closely with the patient to develop a course of treatment that addresses both the addiction and the trauma.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Trauma &
Addiction, reach out for help today

CAUSES OF TRAUMA DISORDERS

Trauma disorder can begin to manifest very early in life, sometimes with children as young as toddlers. If they were old enough to experience a feeling, a traumatic event may continue to fester even if, later in life, they have no direct recollection of the event.

Some of these triggers could include:

  • Being witness to a traumatic event, such as violence to themselves, a caregiver, or another person
  • Experiencing a disruption of caregiving, such as would be the case if they were repeatedly separated from the primary caregiver, or if there were repeated changes in the caregiver (for example, a child that is continually bounced between foster homes and the parents)
  • Exposure to or direct experience with repeated, severe, and persistent emotional or physical abuse

TREATING TRAUMA DISORDERS

It is at this point in a discussion about trauma informed care that we need to talk about the three stages involved in successfully recovering from trauma. This includes addiction.

Those stages are:

  • Stage One – Safety and Stabilization Stage
  • Two – Remembering and Mourning
  • Stage Three – Reconnecting and Integration

Safety and Stabilization

This is the longest and most involved stage of the recovery process. The focus here is on getting clean and remaining sober while learning various coping skills designed to deal with the emotions and painful thoughts that cause the urge to abuse drugs and alcohol. It is when the emotions are no longer numbed that many people in recovery begin to feel a strong sense of anxiety or depression. At this stage, they do not know what to do and this why trauma-informed care in so important. Stage one is a critical part of the recovery process primarily because it is just the beginning. A good goal to begin this stage is to encourage people in recovery to develop positive coping skills. This is how they will be able to begin to recognize how to deal with emotions in ways that are much healthier. It is extremely important to begin to manage those painful mental states that come about unexpectedly, such as flashbacks to the event or moments of self-doubt and criticism. Some helpful skills to include during stage one are: self-care, mindfulness, locating trusted resources, and working with supportive people that can help the recovery process get off to an effective start. Groups such as the 12-step program are also effective at this stage. Many therapists will also use Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Community Reinforcement, and Family Training programs to help individuals in recovery to develop the kind of the relationships that are positive, strong, and stable. To the extent that it is possible, it is also helpful to get family members involved in the recovery process and to understand their role as well. Completing a month-long program does not conclude the process. It just means that the client has begun the journey towards building new and more positive coping skills. Developing strong connections with supportive family members and friends is what must take place before recovery can take hold for the long term. This is why stage one is such an involved and lengthy process.

Remembering And Mourning

Stage two involves taking this newly found stabilization and turning it into an ability to gain the type of freedom from substance use that will lead to a more grounded and positive lifestyle. It involves making sense out of the trauma that happened in life, but learning to channel those emotions into something much more positive. Mourning the loss of the peaceful aspects of life that the client once enjoyed is a part of this process, and it is dealt with an open and honest way during stage two. Trauma survivors learn that the negative experiences they encountered are real, but they do not define who they are. It is important to remember the event, but not necessarily all of the minute details. Those details are not necessary to the healing process. Stage one teaches clients to be present in the moment while reviewing the past. Once healthy coping mechanisms are embraced, these traumatic events can finally be remembered and mourned in a way that does not bring about the urge to engage in addictive and harmful behaviors such as substance abuse.

Reconnection And Integration

By stage three, the unresolved trauma in one’s life no longer defines them. It is important to recognize the impact that the trauma has had, but also to embrace the idea that real healing can result. In essence, it is important to grow from the experience and learn to live with it without having to resort to negative behaviors as a coping mechanism. While extreme difficulty might have defined life for years following the traumatic event, stage three brings the client to the point that they are growing from the experience and are finally able to pursue a life that is happy and healthy.

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Treatment Options for Trauma Disorders with Co-Occuring Substance Abuse

Trauma disorder is a complex syndrome that has roots in severe physical, mental or sexual abuse, or a significant accident, incident or disaster. To ensure that our patients are getting treatment that is appropriate to their unique circumstances, we treat each case on an individual basis.

Evaluations and admissions are based on a range of criteria as we seek to put together a multidisciplinary team that will deliver the best possible care based on the patient’s needs.

A typical treatment plan will combine counseling, one-on-one and group therapy, educational units, physical exercise, and occupational activities with creative outlets such as art, journaling, and creative writing. We also encourage outdoor activities on and around our beautiful Colorado Springs property, tucked neatly into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Some of the clinical therapies for trauma disorder may include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family therapy to provide loved ones with the education and tools they need to support the patient in recovery. As co-occurring disorders such as mood disorders or anxiety disorders may be present, medication may also be prescribed.

Age-Specific, Gender-Specific Trauma Disorder Therapy

Our facility is a safe place to start rebuilding confidence and trust. To this end, we focus on age-specific and gender-specific therapy as we feel that it encourages honesty and minimizes distractions, helping our patients to let their guard down so that new, positive ideas and behaviors can begin to take shape.

In an age-specific environment, patients will be interacting with their peers. When grouped with others who share similar life experiences and milestones, we find that our patients are more at ease and less distracted. By removing the potential for sexual tensions, it ensures that our therapies do not become derailed or diminished in any way.

We seek to establish a safe, healing environment, working towards eventual discharge and the unavoidable changes that returning to their normal life will bring. Transitional outpatient support is always available as we want to give our patients the best possible chance of living a happy and fulfilled life in recovery.

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