Acute trauma, often referred to as Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) occurs when a person has an ‘extreme’ reaction after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, or hearing that a traumatic event has happened to a family member or friend. Everyone responds to trauma differently, and it’s common to feel a range of different emotions. However, acute stress disorder in response to an event impacts a person’s ability to return to everyday life. A person is diagnosed with acute stress disorder when their response to a trauma is immediate – that is, it occurs between three days and a month after the event.
Symptoms of acute stress disorder (and PTSD) include:
Trauma is very common. People can be traumatised in different ways and situations e.g. natural disasters, accidents, being betrayed in relationships, and/or being abused or victimised.
`Single incident’ trauma occurs as a result of `one off’ events. It is commonly associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Single incident trauma can occur with a bushfire, flood, sexual or physical assault in adulthood, or from fighting in a war.
Most people who have trauma-related problems have experienced multiple traumas. When their trauma is not resolved i.e. they have not ‘recovered’, it is known as complex trauma.
‘Complex trauma’ is usually interpersonal (occurs between people), and involves ‘being or feeling’ trapped. It is often planned, extreme, ongoing and/or repeated. Complex trauma generally leads to more severe, persistent and extreme impacts than single incident trauma. It impacts tend to be cumulative. They include difficulties with shame, trust, self-esteem, identity, relationships, regulating emotions, and physical and mental health. People affected by complex trauma also often use a range of coping strategies to cope with their trauma and these can include alcohol and drug use, self-harm, over or under-eating
When complex trauma occurs as a result of child abuse or other adverse childhood experiences it is particularly damaging. Any form of violence within the community – domestic and family violence, civil unrest, war trauma or genocide, cultural dislocation, sexual exploitation and trafficking and/or re-traumatisation of victims later in life can also cause complex trauma.
While the concept of complex trauma is long-standing, it has not been well categorised in the DSM (US manual of mental health disorders) or ICD (global classification of mental health disorders). The diagnosis of Complex PTSD to describe enduring complex trauma is likely to be included in the ICD 11 (June 2018).
It’s important to differentiate single incident trauma (PTSD) from complex trauma and deliver services which address the different needs of people affected by complex trauma (Complex PTSD).
Complex cumulative trauma, also known as complex PTSD or disorder of extreme stress, is a severely pronounced condition that can develop in response to repeated or chronic traumatic events such as prolonged physical and/or sexual abuse in childhood. It is usually associated with both post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression as well as concurrent difficulties in regulating emotions, mood, self-experience, relationship and family disturbance, and the ability to work and function. Common symptoms include:
To learn more about PTSD click here
For additional resources on Complex Trauma click here
If you’re struggling with trauma and in need of help contact Lighthouse Counselling Vancouver to receive your free consultation. For more information click here, or call 604-809-5848. Help is just a click away!
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