Addiction Recovery - Dual Diagnosis

Common Trauma Disorders: A Look at This Class of Treatable Mental Disorders

Trauma disorders can severely affect a person's life. Trauma disorders are also treatable. Here's some common trauma disorders and treatment for them.

What are Common Trauma Disorders, and How are They Treated?

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

October 23, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

In the USA, common trauma disorders have become more prevalent recently. A number of factors could be behind the increase in trauma disorder cases in the USA.

A possible explanation is that better diagnoses may have resulted from a greater understanding and awareness of some illnesses. The rising number of traumatic occurrences, such as mass shootings, natural disasters, and sexual assault in recent years, may also be a contributing cause. Finally, research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased mental health issues, including trauma disorders, and burdened many people. 

Trauma Disorders by the Numbers:

PTSD affected 3.6% of adult Americans in the past year, according to data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Compared to men (1.8%), women (5.2%) had a higher prevalence of PTSD in adults over the previous year. At least 70% of adults experienced one traumatic event in their lifetime. 

What Are Trauma Disorders?

A challenging experience can lead to trauma disorder, commonly known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition. Instances where a person's life or safety is in danger or who suffers extreme fear or feels helpless are referred to as traumatic experiences. Common occurrences include sexual or physical assault, exposure to danger during combat, natural disasters, accidents, or being present when a loved one dies. 

A stressful event might cause PTSD immediately, months later, or even years later. Symptoms might vary greatly in intensity from person to person, and they sometimes go away independently. Many people, however, continue to experience the symptoms that affect their ability to function normally, relationships, and quality of life.

Treatment for PTSD often involves psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to help individuals manage their symptoms and develop coping strategies. Medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may also be prescribed to alleviate symptoms.

With appropriate treatment and support, people with PTSD can often achieve significant symptom relief and improve their overall functioning.

What Are Common Trauma Disorders?

The most well-known and common trauma disorder is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, several other trauma disorders can emerge after going through or seeing a traumatic event.

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

This is a trauma disorder similar to PTSD but occurs immediately after the traumatic event and typically lasts between three days to a month. Symptoms include re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive thoughts or memories, avoiding reminders of the event, negative mood changes, and heightened arousal.

Adjustment Disorders

These are emotional and behavioral reactions to a stressful event that do not meet the criteria for PTSD or ASD. Symptoms may include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worry, and anxiety.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Children who have suffered severe abuse or neglect throughout their early years are at risk for developing this unusual trauma disease. Close connections may be difficult to establish, and emotional apathy and a lack of faith in other people are among the symptoms.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

This is a trauma disorder where a person develops two or more distinct personalities, often due to severe trauma. Symptoms include memory loss, mood swings, and a sense of detachment from oneself.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

This personality disorder can develop after experiencing trauma, particularly during childhood. Symptoms include intense mood swings, impulsive behavior, unstable relationships, and a distorted sense of self-identity.

What Are the Symptoms of Trauma Disorders?

The symptoms can vary widely between individuals and differ in severity and duration. Here are some of the most common symptoms of trauma disorders:

  • Intrusive thoughts and memories: A person with a trauma disorder could have unwanted and distressing memories, flashbacks, or thoughts related to the traumatic event. Reminders of the trauma, such as smells, noises, or sights, may cause these to appear.

  • Avoidance behavior: To avoid reminders of the trauma, a person with a trauma disorder may go out of their way to avoid certain people, places, or situations. This can include withdrawing from social activities or avoiding activities that they used to enjoy.

  • Hypervigilance and heightened arousal: Trauma disorders can cause a person to be easily startled, feel on edge, and have difficulty sleeping or concentrating. They may also be irritable or have angry outbursts.

  • Negative changes in mood and thinking: Trauma disorders can cause a person to have negative thoughts or beliefs about themselves, others, or the world around them. They may also experience feelings of guilt, shame, or worthlessness. In some cases, a person may also experience depression or anxiety.

  • Emotional numbing: A person with a trauma disorder may feel emotionally numb or detached from others. They may also have difficulty experiencing positive emotions or connecting with others.

  • Changes in behavior and mood: Trauma disorders can cause a person to engage in reckless or self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, gambling, or self-harm. They may also experience mood swings, such as being easily irritated or angry.

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What Are the Causes of Trauma Disorders?

Traumatic events can expose people to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Events that involve actual or imminent death, major injury, or sexual violence are considered traumatic. These are a few common reasons for trauma-related disorders:

Medical Trauma

Patients who have experienced a severe illness, injury, or medical procedure can develop PTSD.

Sudden and Unexpected Loss

Trauma disorders can also occur after the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one or a traumatic bereavement experience.


People who were injured in battle, observed violence, or participated in it may get PTSD.

Physical or Sexual Assault

Survivors of physical or sexual assault can develop PTSD. This includes victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and childhood abuse.

Natural Disasters

Survivors of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, can experience trauma and develop PTSD.


Survivors of accidents, such as car or plane crashes, can develop PTSD.

Other Types of Trauma

Other events that can cause trauma include being the victim of a violent crime, having been taken hostage, experiencing a terrorist attack, or experiencing a situation where your life is in danger.

Trauma Disorders and Co-Occurring Conditions

A range of mental health issues known as "trauma disorders" can develop after experiencing or witnessing a stressful incident. For example, a person's life or safety may be in danger due to traumatic occurrences such as physical or sexual abuse, violence, natural catastrophes, accidents, or other distressing experiences.

Acute trauma disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are the two primary forms of trauma disorders. Short-term acute trauma disorder can appear days or weeks after a traumatic event. Dissociation, nightmares, flashbacks, and hyperarousal are just a few symptoms. The chronic condition PTSD, on the other hand, might appear months or even years after a stressful experience.

Flashbacks, avoiding triggers, being excessively watchful, and unfavorable mental and emotional state changes are just a few symptoms.

Co-occurring conditions are when two or more physical or mental health issues coexist in the same person. Co-occurring diseases in the context of trauma disorders may be connected to other mental health issues, like depression or anxiety disorders, that frequently co-occur with trauma disorders.

Trauma Disorders: What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

Some people use alcohol or drugs to deal with the emotional pain brought on by trauma. Substance use disorders are frequently co-occurring conditions in people with trauma disorders. This combination is known as a dual diagnosis.

It may be more challenging to get beneficial results when trauma problems co-occur with other physical or mental health issues. For instance, trauma disorder patients may find it more challenging to participate in therapy or other forms of treatment if they are experiencing signs of despair or anxiety. Similar to how specific therapies for trauma disorders might be hampered by substance abuse.

Treatment for co-occurring illnesses and trauma disorders often requires a comprehensive strategy to meet every aspect of the patient's physical and mental health needs.

Trauma Disorders: What Problems Do Co-Occurring Conditions Cause?

Co-occurring diseases may severely affect trauma disorders in many different ways. Here are a few consequences:

  • Increased symptom severity: Trauma disorders' symptoms can worsen if co-occurring conditions exist. For instance, those with depression or anxiety disorders may experience more severe guilt, fear, or hopelessness after a stressful occurrence.

  • Impaired functioning: Co-occurring diseases can also interfere with the ability of individuals with trauma disorders to function in their daily lives. This can include difficulties with work, school, or relationships.

  • Reduced treatment efficacy: Co-occurring diseases can make it more difficult to treat trauma disorders effectively. For example, if an individual is also struggling with substance use disorder, it may be challenging to address the trauma symptoms while they are still using drugs or alcohol.

  • Increased risk of complications: Co-occurring diseases can increase the risk of complications related to trauma disorders. For example, individuals with trauma and substance use disorders may be at higher risk of accidental injury or overdose.

  • Longer recovery time: Co-occurring diseases can prolong the recovery time for trauma disorders. Treating both trauma disorders and co-occurring diseases may require a longer course of treatment or a more intensive treatment approach.

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How to Diagnose Common Trauma Disorders?

Diagnosing trauma disorders is typically based on a comprehensive assessment considering the individual's medical and psychiatric history, symptoms, and experiences. Here are some of the key steps involved in diagnosing common trauma disorders:

Clinical Interview

A clinical interview by a mental health expert, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, usually starts off the diagnostic procedure. The physician will question the patient about their trauma history, current symptoms, and other elements that might be important for the diagnosis.

Diagnostic Criteria

If the patient fulfills the requirements for a particular trauma disorder, the physician will apply the diagnostic criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to make this decision. For instance, a person must have experienced a traumatic event and exhibit a particular set of symptoms for at least one month to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Assessment Tools

The clinician may also use assessment tools to gather additional information about the individual's symptoms and experiences. For example, the clinician may use a standardized questionnaire to assess the severity of the individual's PTSD symptoms.

Medical Evaluation

The clinician may also conduct a medical evaluation to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing the individual's symptoms. This may involve a physical examination and laboratory tests.

Differential Diagnosis

The clinician can also consider other possible diagnoses explaining the individual's symptoms. This is known as a differential diagnosis and is an integral part of the diagnostic process.

Collaborative Approach

Last but not least, the diagnostic procedure may involve an integrated approach that incorporates feedback from other healthcare professionals, including primary care doctors, psychiatric professionals, or social workers.

What Are the Treatments for Trauma Disorders?

The treatment for trauma disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), typically involves therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Here are some common treatments for trauma disorders:

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)

PE is a form of therapy that involves gradually exposing a patient to the memories of the event in a private and controlled setting. The stress and anxiety caused by the recollection could decrease as a result.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can help a person with a trauma disorder identify and change the negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their symptoms.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

In EMDR treatment, the patient is guided to concentrate on a traumatic memory through eye movements or other types of stimulation. This may help alleviate some of the distress caused by recalling painful events.


Certain medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, can be used to help manage the symptoms of trauma disorders. These medications can help reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall mental health.

Group Therapy and Support Groups

Group therapy and support groups can provide a safe and supportive environment for people with trauma disorders to share their experiences and learn coping skills from others with similar experiences.

Trauma Disorders Are Treatable: The Edge Treatment Center Will Help

The Edge Treatment Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for mental health issues. Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy that recognizes the needs of survivors of trauma, we offer a dedicated mental health track for trauma disorders, dual diagnosis, and more.

Common trauma disorder-related problems are complex and require a thorough approach to treatment. We’ll help you build a happier life where the symptoms of trauma can be safely explored, identified, and treated. If you’d like to learn more about our evidence-based care for trauma disorders, please reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today.  

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