Women who experience sexual abuse, violence, or witness a horrendous event, such as a serious crime, accident, or violence inflicted on another, experience trauma. Unfortunately, this trauma is often experienced at a young age, and its effects, if left untreated, often lead to any number of mental health disorders later in life, such as depression, anxiety, difficulty forming lasting relationships, substance abuse, and more.
specific trauma-related disorders include:
- Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
- Adjustment Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
According to the National Center for PTSD, approximately 10% of women have PTSD sometime in their lives compared to 4% of men. Symptoms of PTSD may begin within days following a traumatic event, but it is not uncommon for symptoms to appear months or even years later.
Typical symptoms of PTSD include:
- Intrusive thoughts about the event, including nightmares and flashbacks
- Avoidance of anything that acts as a reminder of the trauma
- Behavior changes, such as insomnia, withdrawing from loved ones and engaging in reckless or self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse
- Cognitive disturbances like irritability, negative thoughts about one’s self or others, anxiety, or fear/paranoia
When children or adults are exposed to repeated or prolonged trauma, such as repeated sexual, physical, or verbal abuse, or domestic violence, they may develop a slightly different condition known as Complex-PTSD (C-PTSD).
While similar to PTSD, there are additional effects that are troubling, such as:
- Poor emotional regulation, which manifests as outbursts of extreme emotions like rage and depression
- Poor self-image
- Difficulty forming healthy relationships
- Behavioral difficulties like substance abuse, impulsivity, and self-destructive actions
- Detaching from self (depersonalization) or reality (derealization)
- Forgetting the trauma
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
Acute stress disorder is similar to PTSD but is shorter in duration. ASD symptoms develop immediately after a traumatic event, lasting from three to six weeks. If symptoms persist
beyond that, PTSD is likely.
Secondhand trauma is also known as “trauma exposure response” or “secondary traumatic stress disorder.” It results from exposure to the trauma of other people.
Symptoms of secondary traumatic stress include:
- A sense of hopelessness or helplessness
- Feeling like you can never do enough to help
- Guilt, fear, anger, or cynicism
- Chronic fatigue
Adjustment disorders are usually temporary and triggered by stressful life events such as divorce, job loss, a severe illness diagnosis, or losing a loved one. Some can cope with the stress of these situations on their own, but others may need help.
Symptoms of an adjustment disorder may include:
- Frequent sadness or hopelessness
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep changes (too much, or too little)
- Neglecting responsibilities at home or work
- Difficulty focusing
- Difficulty functioning in daily life
- Suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
If you are experiencing trauma-related mental health symptoms, do not lose hope! It may take a combination of different things, including traditional talk therapy, holistic therapies, and medications, but you can get through it and realize a happier, healthier life!