Do I need a psychotherapist for trauma and PTSD? Unfortunately, life can present people with difficult circumstances. Sometimes, people face challenges that can even be terrifying and life threatening. You might consider events such as car accidents, muggings, terrorist attacks, and being at war as most obviously fitting within these categories. Being subjected to abuse or neglect as a child might also match. Such events can lead to trauma reactions and even PTSD. To resolve the trauma response, most people will want to see a trained counselor:
In the face of some life circumstances, some individuals may struggle to adjust. Such circumstance can include many different types of life changes. It could be moving to a new setting, dealing with a new role, or even experiencing a break up. People may notice reactions in themselves as they struggle to adjust. However, those reactions are not necessarily trauma related or diagnosable as PTSD.
A major difference is the circumstances, which in this case are not necessarily terrifying and certainly not life threatening. The reaction is also different. Difficulty with adjustment may result in some anxiety and depression, but not necessarily the same traumatic responses that might be expected to occur following a more serious event. Nonetheless, it can be valuable to seek therapeutic support.
Acute Stress Disorder
Other times, people do face more significant events that lead to more troubling symptoms. If a life-threatening or particularly terrifying event occurs, followed by severe symptoms, then a diagnosis of acute stress disorder might be considered. This diagnosis can be made between 1 week and 30 days after the event. After 30 days, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder should be considered.
The symptoms that characterize acute stress disorder include intrusive thoughts or memories about the event. This might occur through flashbacks. Such intrusive thoughts and memories can also occur during sleep through nightmares. People may also find themselves becoming hypervigilant—always aware of their environment and the challenges they may face. They may want to avoid certain situations that seem to remind them of the trauma event they occurred. In time, this can be reinforced such that it becomes increasingly difficult for the person to engage in their general daily activities.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
If treated early, acute stress disorder may be resolved and then it will not develop into PTSD. Other times, PTSD does develop as a result of the circumstances faced, the symptoms, and their timeframe. Notably, PTSD symptoms can also emerge some time after the event, in what is called delayed onset.
PTSD can be really difficult to manage. It can affect a person’s daily functioning, their relationships with others, and even their ability to work. Most people who develop PTSD need the support of a therapist to work through the trauma events that are causing this severe reaction. With counseling, they can process what happened, learn to cope with it, and improve their overall well-being. However, it can be a difficult process, so most people would want a therapist who they feel very comfortable with.
Trauma experiences and trauma reactions can be significant problems that alter a person’s mental health and ability to function. If you need help coping with a trauma event, consider seeking the support of a counselor.
Contact Licensed Clinical Social Worker Laurie Sloan today at 212-413-7088 to schedule an appointment for counseling. Laurie can help you heal the pain of your past and improve your life.