Trauma and Stress Related Disorders

Trauma and stress-related disorders are a group of emotional and behavioural problems that usually arise from exposure to traumatic and stressful experiences.

Behaviour Help is a registered NDIS provider.

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Definition of Trauma and Stress Related Disorders

Trauma and stress-related disorders are a group of emotional and behavioural problems that usually arise from exposure to traumatic and stressful experiences. The disorders are serious psychological reactions that develop in some people, resulting in abnormal thoughts and behaviours that are commonly referred to as mental illness. For children, experiencing hostile environments early in their life can be linked with a variety of negative outcomes for them later in life including trauma and stress-related disorders (APA, 2013,  2015; Barnhill, 2020; Thakur et al., 2016).

 

Causes of Trauma and Stress Related Disorders

Trauma and stress-related disorders usually occur when a person is exposed to traumatic and stressful events including neglect at childhood, physical/sexual abuse during childhood, during war or combat, assault (physical or sexual), direct or indirect exposure to a natural disaster, being involved in an accident or facing or experiencing torture (APA, 2013,  2015; Barnhill, 2020; Thakur et al., 2016).  

 

Types of Trauma and Stress Related Disorders

Although trauma and stress-related disorders can be broadly described, they can be categorized into key types including relating to how they exhibit themselves in affected people. 

  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) – this disorder is characterized by serious difficulties with emotional connection, relation and attachment with the parents/ caregivers. 
  • Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder – this is characterized by patterns of behaviour that comprise of inappropriate, overly familiar behaviour with unfamiliar adults and strangers. 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – this is a trauma and stress-related disorder resulting from substantial psychological pain, usually for a period of more than a month after a person is exposed to a traumatic or stressful event. 
  • Acute Stress Disorder – this disorder is similar to PTSD; however, it results from a shorter period of exposure to a traumatic or stressful event – usually, after the person is exposed to a traumatic or stressful event for a period of only between three days to a month.
  • Adjustment Disorder – this disorder is exhibited or notable when the affected person shows emotional or behavioural symptoms that are a result of exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. 

 

(APA, 2013,  2015; Barnhill, 2020; Thakur et al., 2016)

 

Symptoms of Trauma and Stress Related Disorders

There are various signs and symptoms that exhibit themselves in a person with a trauma and stress-related disorder. In most cases, these signs and symptoms can be categorized into key classifications. The main broad categories of symptoms include: 

  • Intrusion symptoms – these are symptoms related to the affected person’s memory replaying the event as if it is happening again or reoccurring. In most cases, affected persons experience flashbacks of the traumatic or stressful event. Affected people exhibiting these symptoms may be having recurrent, involuntary and distressing memories, thoughts and dreams of the event. 
  • Avoidance symptoms – when the affected person has these types of symptoms, usually they are exhibited as efforts to evade or avoid internal reminders of the traumatic or stressful event (memories, thoughts, feelings associated with the traumatic or stressful event) and/or external reminders of the traumatic event (such as people, places, situations associated with the traumatic or stressful event). Affected people with these symptoms may be trying to pre-occupy themselves feelings, thoughts, things or tasks that would help them avoid the trauma-related feelings. In most cases, the affected person’s efforts to try and avoid reminders of these traumatic and stressful events then becomes their central focus in life.
  • Negative alterations – these alterations or changes in cognition and mood include difficulty remembering vital aspects of the traumatic or stressful event, feelings of guilt and/or shame, being afraid or fearful, depression and feeling isolated from others.
  • Hyper-arousal symptoms – this is when affected people usually exhibit behaviours such as being jumpy and easily frightened or startled, being overly irritable, having angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating, having trouble sleeping and sometimes showing or having self-destructive behaviour.

(APA, 2013,  2015; Barnhill, 2020; Thakur et al., 2016)

 

References

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).

Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

American Psychiatric Association (2015). Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to The DSM-5.

Washington, DC.

Barnhill, J. W. (2020). Overview of Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. MSD Manual. 

Thakur, A., Creedon, J., & Zeanah, C. H. (2016). Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders Among Children and Adolescents. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing), 14(1), 34–45. 

Behaviour Help

If you are supporting an individual with this diagnosis, please refer to our services and resources. They aim to help children, adolescents and adults achieve better communication, social, emotional, behavioural and learning outcomes. So whether you are wanting guidance on parenting, teaching, supporting or providing therapy, Behaviour Help is at hand.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible causes, symptoms and types but some general information that can be further explored. Based on what you have read if you have any concerns about an individual, please raise them with the individual/s. The caregiver can then raise these concerns with their local doctor who can provide a referral to the relevant professional (e.g. paediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, allied health professional and learning specialists) for diagnosis and treatment if appropriate.

Which resources are right for you?

Apps

Based on the Taking CHARGE of Rainbow of Emotions Workbook this app helps children of all ages develop emotional regulation skills. The app guides the child to firstly, identify and express their emotion in appropriate ways. Then the child is guided to use emotional management tool/s from the CHARGE tool kit to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

The acronym CHARGE stands for the different categories of emotional management tools – Chat tools, Helpful thinking tools, Amusement tools, Relaxation tools, Good routine tools and Exercise tools.

Behaviour Help App - Using the evidence-based approach of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), the Behaviour Help web-based app allows people supporting individuals with emotional and behavioural difficulties to complete a Functional Behaviour Analysis and put together a comprehensive Behaviour Support Plan (BSP). The BSP can then be used by everyone interacting with the individual to manage and prevent challenging behaviours and ultimately improve their lives, and the lives of those who support them.

Books

If you want to learn more about emotional and behavioural difficulties then we have a great range of books you can read on your Kindle or order from Amazon.

Coaching

Personalised and practical one to one help tailored specifically to your family.

Online Courses

Access these online courses anytime online to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotional regulation skills. Also learn to utilise the positive behaviour support framework to address anxiety, aggression, ADHD, ASD and ODD.

SEL Educational Videos

Minimise or eliminate the occurrence of challenging behaviours by teaching children of all ages appropriate ways of communicating, interacting, managing their emotions and behaviours.

The SEL curriculum uses video modelling to provide direct, explicit and systematic teaching of the various skills by discussing the importance of the skill, modelling the skill so the child learns what the skill looks like? sounds like? feels like? and learn the skill in staged situations that simulate real life scenarios.

Therapy

Personalised and practical behaviour therapy tailored specifically to your family.

Webinars

Webinars discuss a range of practical strategies to guide your child learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.

Workshops

Attend our practical and interactive workshops to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotions, behaviours, social and communication skills in your learning environment.

Ask Dolly

Since you’re here, you probably have questions and concerns. I am Dolly Bhargava, am here to help. I am a NDIS registered behaviour support practitioner and speech pathologist.

I have worked in a number of settings for over 21 years so, how can I help?

Please tell me what is worrying you right now and I will do my best to recommend resources and/or services that will be most useful to you in your situation.

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