Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and some more manageable degrees of stress are actually necessary for growth. Yet when life-stress becomes exorbitant or unmanageable, it can feel just as jarring as would exposure to a traumatic event.
A traumatic event is one that is perceived as either life-threatening or overwhelming. Traumatic events can include events such as war, rape, assault, a terminal Illness diagnosis and accidents as well as the loss of a loved one, a home or job. Even intentional life changes can be experienced as traumatic such as moving, marriage, divorce, a new job and the birth of a child. Typical reactions to both stress and trauma may include feelings of overwhelm, numbness, depression, anxiety, feeling on-guard, irritable, dissociative and having difficulty concentrating and sleeping.
It can be hard deciphering whether one’s emotional experience trauma or stress is typical and short-term and with support can pass or whether it is morphing into a trauma or stress-related disorder. A useful mnemonic to help recall the symptoms of a trauma disorder is DREAMS:
Detachment from emotions and people
Reexperiencing of the traumatic events in nightmares, flashbacks and recollections
Event involved substantial emotional distress, with threatened death or loss of physical integrity, and feelings of helplessness or disabling fear
Avoidance of people, places or things that remind you of the event
One Month of symptoms
Sympathetic hyperactivity or hyper-vigilance, which may include insomnia, irritability and difficulty concentrating
When diagnosing a traumatic reaction, timing is everything. Immediately after a traumatic event has occurred a person may suffer from an expected Acute Stress Reaction (ASR) which includes most of the symptoms listed above. If these symptoms persist for at least 3 days and up to one month pursuant to the traumatic event, then the individual is considered to suffer from Acute Stress Disorder. In Posttraumatic Stress, the symptoms persist for longer than one month following a traumatic event.
Anyone who experiences a traumatic or stress-related disorder may feel that their sense of security and competency has been diminished which, over time can lead to greater distress and depression. The earlier one receives therapeutic support the better the outcome is likely to be. At NYC Therapy Group, our goal is to use the therapeutic relationship to assist the client in: obtaining a sense of safety and connection to the world, tap into inner strengths, process the traumatic event or stressful situation and gain a new sense of mastery and growth. We believe that we have the right knowledge and expertise to help you overcome the trauma and stress you have experienced.