Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders

Experiencing traumatic or stressful events is inherently distressing for any individual, however emotional difficulties usually ease with time. In some instances however, the emotional fallout after a traumatic or stressful event is long lasting and even debilitating. Fortunately, years of concerted research have helped develop very effective treatments for these problems.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a diagnosis that describes a constellation of problems that a person may have after they have experienced, witnessed, or learned of an event that included actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. PTSD may result from serious automobile accidents, physical or sexual abuse or assault, natural disasters, military combat, and many other traumatic events. Symptoms vary but typically include: some form of intrusive or anxiety-producing thoughts, memories, or images; avoidance of internal (e.g., feelings, thoughts) or external (e.g., places, people) reminders of the trauma; negative changes in one’s mood or thinking patterns; and physiological changes that may include startling easily, being hypervigilant, irritability, or having trouble sleeping or concentrating. PTSD and its treatment have been research priorities for academic psychologists and other researchers for many years. When treating PTSD, I typically use Prolonged Exposure (PE) and I have been mentored by and trained with several extremely influential PE experts. While PE is highly effective, PE is an emotionally challenging treatment - but it is not as challenging as living life with PTSD.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder is very similar to PTSD but is typically only diagnosed for the time period ranging from three days after an event up to one month after the event. If symptoms persist beyond the one-month point, a diagnosis of PTSD may be appropriate.

Adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder describes symptoms, frequently of anxiety and depression, related to distress, impairment, and difficulty adjusting following a stressful life event such as job loss, becoming a parent, divorce, a long-distance move, or a serious illness.

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