By: Jennifer Hall
Both childhood and adult trauma present substantial challenges to both clients and healthcare professionals. According to the Sidran Institute, about 70% of U.S. adults have experienced a traumatic event at some point in their lives. Of these approximately 20% develop some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Psychological trauma is the term applied to the lingering mental effects of a stressful or emotionally painful event. The event may be sudden and unexpected (such as a car accident, assault, or natural disaster) or ongoing (as in childhood abuse, poverty, or war). Whatever the cause, a traumatic experience can induce such extreme stress that it overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.
Symptoms of psychological trauma are different for each individual, but some general patterns have been noted. For example, psychological trauma can affect an individual’s ability to complete tasks, hold long-term employment, and maintain relationships. Trauma can also disturb basic functions such as appetite and sleep patterns. Other symptoms associated with trauma may include intrusive thoughts, unwanted visual images of the traumatic event, avoidance of places or things associated with the event, memory loss, trouble concentrating, nightmares, confusion, and mood swings.
The short answer is no. One reason trauma is challenging to treat is that not everyone experiences the same events in the same way. What may be experienced as a traumatic event by one person may not be perceived as such by another. And even two people who experience an identical trauma, such as the survivors of a plane crash, can experience different after-effects. So while some can process a traumatic event without assistance beyond their own support groups (such as family, friends, and co-workers), others require professional treatment.
Long-term traumatic events—such as child abuse, child sexual abuse, and neglect or poverty—can impair a child’s developmental progress. For example, young children experiencing a traumatic event may find themselves unable to complete tasks they had previously mastered. Traumatized children may also have difficulties forming emotional attachments, handling stressful events unrelated to the trauma, or feeling secure or connected within their environment. Behavioral effects of trauma can include extreme aversions, problems controlling impulses or emotions, dissociation, and engagement in high-risk behaviors.
For those with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) [link to autism post], psychological trauma can be particularly devastating. Many individuals who are on the autism spectrum already feel overwhelmed by the stimuli from their daily environments. Also, PTSD may not present the same way in a person with an ASD than in someone not on the spectrum. Addressing trauma in this challenging context requires detailed assessment and individualized care. By focusing on needs of the client, as well as on the nature of the disorder, clinicians continue to make progress in treating individuals with both PTSD and an ASD.
If someone in your family struggles with PTSD, either inside or outside the context of an autism spectrum disorder, you are not alone. At Key Assets Behavioral Health, our experienced and compassionate staff is committed to the effective assessment and compassionate treatment of every client who comes to us for help. Our staff is experienced in the treatment of adult and childhood trauma, as well as in the assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
Key Assets Kentucky, is a behavioral health and child caring company based in Central Kentucky. Through our Key Assets Behavioral Health program and Children in Community Care program, we seek to positively impact the lives of children, young people, their families. We specialize in offering support services via residential treatment group home care for youth with autism and/or developmental disabilities, and behavioral health therapy and case management services for youth, adults and families in times of crisis. Key Assets Kentucky is part of the Key Assets Group, an international group of companies delivering a continuum of services for children, adults and families.