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How Is Trauma Diagnosed And Treated?

The term ‘trauma’ is frequently used, but what does it mean? Fundamentally, it refers to a traumatic event that has long-lasting effects on a person’s mental and emotional health. Everyone’s trauma experience is unique, and what one person finds traumatic, another may not. It can happen to anyone and in a variety of ways.

When it comes to people who have experienced trauma, it’s critical to be open-minded. Left untreated, trauma can lead to various mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. It may also lead to physical health problems, like chronic pain, headaches, and heart disease.

Understanding how trauma is diagnosed and treated is crucial for helping affected individuals to heal and move forward. If you think you or a loved one needs help, you may contact specialists at treatment centers such as They offer different types of therapy, counseling, support groups, and alternative therapies for individuals who have experienced it. 

Read on to delve deeper into the types of trauma, their diagnosis, and treatment.

Types Of Trauma

Everyone reacts differently to trauma; some people are more predisposed to trauma-related disorders than others. Genetics, past experiences, and their support system can affect how they respond to a traumatic event. Here are the three types of trauma:

  • Acute Trauma: It’s a type of traumatic experience that happens suddenly and is usually caused by a specific event. Anyone can experience this kind of trauma, which can be very upsetting. Think about being involved in a car accident or a natural disaster, for instance. Someone who has recently experienced an acute trauma may feel shocked, anxious, or afraid. 

  • Chronic Trauma: This type of trauma refers to repeated or long-lasting traumatic experiences over a long period. Chronic trauma includes long-term physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, or community violence. It can seriously affect a person’s physical and mental health. People exposed to chronic trauma can experience various symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s common for such individuals to develop coping mechanisms, like substance abuse, to deal with the emotional pain of chronic trauma. 

  • Complex Trauma: It occurs as a result of prolonged, repeated, and multiple traumatic experiences. These events may have happened in childhood, such as growing up in a war-torn country. It may also occur in adulthood if one is in an abusive relationship.

Diagnosis Of Trauma

Trauma can produce both psychological and physical symptoms. Below are some of the psychological symptoms:

  • Intrusive thoughts or memories of the traumatic event

  • Avoiding people, places, or activities associated with the trauma

  • Feeling angry, guilty, or detached  

  • Hypervigilance or excessive alertness to one’s surroundings

  • Nightmares or flashbacks  

On the other hand, physical trauma symptoms may include the following:

  • Headaches or stomach aches

  • Fatigue or difficulty sleeping

  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing

  • Muscle tension or trembling

Mental health professionals rely on two main sets of diagnostic criteria to diagnose trauma: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10).

The DSM-5 criteria for PTSD include witnessing a traumatic event, experiencing symptoms such as reliving the event, avoiding reminders of the event, adverse changes in mood or cognition, and increased arousal. Similar symptoms are included in the ICD-10 criteria for PTSD, but the symptoms must also cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

Furthermore, mental health professionals may use a variety of tools, including:

  • Psychological tests, such as the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R)

  • Interviews, such as the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS)

  • Medical examinations to rule out other possible causes of symptoms and to check for any physical injuries related to the traumatic event


Treatment Of Trauma

When it comes to treating trauma, there are various options available. Depending on the individual’s specific needs, a treatment plan may include a combination of psychological therapies, medications, and alternative therapies. Here are some of the psychological therapies available:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A type of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors contributing to their distress. It typically involves assisting people in processing and making sense of their traumatic experiences and learning ways to cope with the lingering effects of trauma.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing: A relatively new structured therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) uses guided eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to help people process traumatic memories. Eye movements help people ‘unlock’ the traumatic memories and process them more adaptively.

  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A specific type of CBT, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is designed to help children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events. It involves assisting kids in processing the traumatic event and working on skills like relaxation and problem-solving.

Medications can be a helpful addition to psychological therapies for treating trauma symptoms. Here are some examples:

  • Antidepressants: Antidepressant medications can help treat trauma symptoms like depression and anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly used antidepressants for trauma.

  • Anti-anxiety Medications: Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, can be used to help reduce symptoms of anxiety that are related to trauma. However, they should be used with caution and only under the guidance of a mental health professional, as they can be habit-forming.

  • Sleep Aids: People who have experienced trauma often have difficulty sleeping, and sleep aids can help address insomnia.

In addition to traditional therapies, alternative therapies can help individuals cope with the effects of trauma. These therapies may include the following:

  • Yoga: It can help people who have experienced trauma feel more grounded, calm, and in control of their bodies.

  • Meditation: It can help people cope with trauma by reducing anxiety and depression symptoms and improving sleep.

  • Art Therapy: It can benefit people who have experienced trauma because it allows them to express themselves nonverbally. It can also assist them in making sense of traumatic experiences and developing coping skills.


Everyone is unique when it comes to trauma treatment. What works for one person might not work for the next. That’s why you should find a therapist or counselor you can trust or with whom you feel at ease. They’ll work with you to develop the best treatment plan for your needs. Remember, you’re not alone, and healing takes time.

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