To Get the Right Trauma Diagnosis, Context Is Key

The effects of trauma have come to the foreground in the past few years. Psychologists and other health professionals are broadening their understanding of trauma and what it may mean and look like for survivors. Various factors, such as timing and occurrence, will result in different diagnoses and treatments for patients. As a result of recent developments in trauma research, there has been a proclamation for an official categorization of different diagnoses for trauma conditions based on the context of the trauma.

Below, we review various forms of trauma and related diagnosis, in order to continue the conversation.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is the result of witnessing or experiencing a psychological or physical shock. Examples of these types of events include fighting in combat, natural disaster, or sexual/physical violence. Post-traumatic stress disorder has three groups of symptoms:
1. Recurrent re-experiencing of the event through dreams or flashbacks
2. Emotional avoidance of anything that may be triggering
3. Hyperarousal

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is described as exposure to a series of prolonged traumatic events/experiences which are often within the realm of an interpersonal relationship (i.e. child neglect). 

Complex trauma is often viewed as the amplified form of PTSD. That is because, in addition to the three forms of symptoms associated with PTSD, complex trauma is also associated with three additional groups:
1. Emotional Dysfunction 

  1. Negative Self-image 
  2. Interpersonal Difficulties

Intergenerational Trauma

Intergenerational trauma in the aftermath of unresolved trauma in one generation that is subsequently passed to the next generation. 

When parents struggle to address and resolve trauma that they may have faced, it can be difficult to develop a stable and supportive relationship with their children. Adults with a history of unresolved trauma are at risk of developing mental health problems, addictions, and/or depression. Children within those environments do not get the opportunity to develop secure attachments and may carry that trauma throughout their lives and later passing it down to their offspring.

Developmental trauma

Developmental trauma is a new concept that is used to understand trauma exposure in children. This may include, but is not limited to, chronic abuse, neglect, and other difficult adversities that may have occurred in the home. While developmental trauma is a relatively new concept, supporters of the survivors argue that the root causes and symptoms differ from those of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the outcomes are much more detrimental and complex.

What Therapists Need to Know

When diagnosing a new patient, it’s important to get an all-encompassing picture of their experiences and trauma. What may apply to one individual may be a completely different solution for another. It is all contextual and it is your job to do the work to help every patient acknowledge, resolve, and go forward to having happy and fulfilled lives. 

Somatic Psyche is committed to helping you overcome your trauma so that you can regain control of your life. Daphne Georghiou works with you in a safe place to work through your experiences and give you the tools to cope with various challenges.