Signs and Treatment for Psychological Trauma

Stressful events, even those that are not physically harmful, can have a severe effect on a person. Psychological trauma is a natural response to traumatic events that could take many forms, whether they’re as extreme as wars or natural disasters, or as close to home as illness or divorce. 

Not everyone will develop long-term trauma symptoms. The effects and feelings may resolve after a few weeks. However, the effects of extreme situations should never be underestimated, and many victims will require trauma therapy and treatment.

What is Trauma?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” 

This definition can be further expanded to encompass a full range of situations, including the loss of a loved one, accidents, injury, and any other set of circumstances that may cause deep distress to a person. 

Regardless of the severity of the event, different people have different responses to trauma, and may respond to lesser or greater degrees, or take more or less time to come to terms with their experiences.

Due to the fact that trauma encompasses such a wide spectrum, trauma counselors have developed different categories to differentiate types of trauma

Among others, these include:

Developmental Trauma Disorder:

This form of trauma is a result of abuse, neglect, and or abandonment that may have occurred within the first three years of a child’s life. These impact the child’s ability to bond to a caregiver, and interferes with the infant’s neurological, cognitive, and psychological development.

Complex Trauma:

In some cases, victims may be exposed to repeated traumatic episodes during a specific timeframe or relationship, resulting in direct harm to the individual. These events have a cumulative, long-term effect that can impact future relationships and psychological health.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

Post-traumatic stress disorder results after exposure to an extreme ordeal in which a person was threatened or physically harmed. The memories of the experience can persist long after the event and can remain just as terrifying to the victim even though a long period of time may have elapsed.

Acute Trauma:

A trauma response resulting from a single, highly dangerous, or stressful experience.

Chronic Trauma:

Often a result of child abuse, domestic violence, or bullying, chronic trauma occurs when a person is exposed to ongoing, repetitive traumatic events.

Symptoms of Trauma

Response to trauma manifests in a wide range of symptoms, both psychological and physical. Since trauma is viewed subjectively by each individual, the symptoms can vary in duration and intensity. 

Some may experience emotional symptoms such as:

Anger, shock, denial, or disbelief

Poor focus


Unpredictable mood swings

Anxiety and fear

Self-blame and misplaced guilt

Feelings of shame

Social withdrawal

Persistent sadness, despair, or hopelessness

A sense of numbness or disconnection

Physical symptoms may manifest as:

Headaches, nausea, and stomach issues

Sleeplessness and bad dreams

Jitteriness and easy to startle

Nervousness and agitation


Erratic heartbeat

Muscle pains and tension

Causes of Trauma

Studies cited by the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, indicate that 60–75% of people in North America experience trauma at some stage. 

While people respond differently to different situations, in most cases, trauma is a response to a specific stressful event such as:

  • War 85% 85%
  • Natural disasters 70% 70%
  • Kidnapping or acts of terrorism 80% 80%
  • Bullying or harassment 65% 65%
  • Physical, psychological, or sexual abuse 85% 85%
  • Sexual assault 75% 75%
  • Physical assault 70% 70%
  • Vehicle accidents 55% 55%
  • Serious illnesses 65% 65%
  • Loss of a loved one 80% 80%
  • Childbirth 45% 45%

Diagnosing Trauma

In diagnosing trauma, a healthcare professional will conduct a physical exam to rule out any underlying health issues that may result in similar symptoms. 

They will also carry out a psychological assessment to discuss what the patient views as signs of trauma, as well as events that may have caused them. 

Medical experts may refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to assess whether symptoms fit the criteria for trauma as specified within the manual.

Treatment for Trauma

Trauma therapy can be as varied as the individuals suffering from the condition since it needs to be tailored to accommodate unique combinations of symptoms. 

Trauma counselors may employ a number of approaches such as:

Additional Therapies:

Studies have shown that survivors also respond to alternative forms of treatment, such as body-oriented methods like mindfulness, yoga, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Treatments such as neurofeedback, in which patients are taught to control brainwaves, have also shown success in managing trauma.


Patients can assist in their own recovery by implementing lifestyle changes such as healthy diet and exercise programs. Also, establishing strong networks of family, friends, and support groups can help tremendously. Other techniques, such as mindfulness, sensory input (like petting a dog), and remaining grounded in the present, can have benefits too.

Talk therapy (or psychodynamic psychotherapy):

This treatment involves talking through situations to provide a clearer picture of events and help find relief from the pain associated with them. Patients are given healthy methods of handling exposure to triggers to control reactions when in similar situations

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

CBT helps a person work through their feelings and beliefs to identify their issues and develop skills to manage their triggers in a more positive manner.

Exposure Therapy (or Vivo Exposure Therapy):

This form of CBT works on minimizing the learned fear response to an emotional trigger through controlled exposure to similar triggers.

Get Help for Trauma

If a traumatic experience is ignored and the individual does not seek counseling or help of some sort, it can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

With treatment for trauma, people can identify and learn to understand the cause of the trauma and find constructive ways to manage their symptoms. The counselors at Psyclarity Health have experience in trauma therapy and can assist in creating a treatment program to address immediate issues, as well as work toward long-term health.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you with trauma treatment.


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