Trauma and PTSD

What is the difference about suffering from Trauma or from PTSD?

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an aggravated anxiety problem caused by living or witnessing traumatic events.

These experiences may come from a terrible accident, negative events, or natural disasters. These experiences can range from mild incidents, to rape, divorce, death, illness, or even more serious, such as experiences from war, or seen as a first-responders (police, firefighter, EMT’s).

The difference between Trauma and PTSD is the level of suffering and how intrusive the symptoms are (more in PTSD).

What can be labeled as a traumatic event?

Traumatic events can happen at anyone’s life: one could have been or witnessed an accident (fall from a bike, or be bitten by a dog), or a crime; or could have suffered harassments, death threats; or have multiples traumas from childhood (neglect, abuse, sexual molestation/abuse), or adulthood (job related: military, first-responders, or rescuers).


Trauma in children

Children are the most vulnerable for traumas, but are also the easiest to build resilience for the future. These could be neglect from parents, domestic violence, physical, emotional, or psychological abuse, sexual molestation (fondling) or abuse (oral, penetration) in a single or multiple events. Other traumas can come from accidents (ie.: bike, urination in public, or witnessing a pet being hurt/killed).

Signs and symptoms of suffering from trauma / PTSD

Trauma is also connected to our “primal system of survival” – the sympathetic system (also known as the flight/fight/freeze/faint system). Trauma can also activate the anxiety and depressive system, which can be triggered by thoughts, emotions, situations, environment, or physical sensations.

Long term reactions to traumatic events could be:

  • unpredictable emotions
  • intrusive memories
  • nightmares
  • flashbacks
  • anxiety
  • avoidance of people, places, or events
  • depression
  • feeling sad / angry / on the edge
  • strained relationships
  • physical symptoms
    • headaches

While these feelings are normal for some, some others have difficulty moving on with their lives.


Causes of PTSD

PTSD usually develops after a traumatic event for certain people. Not everyone who lived or witnessed a traumatic event will develop PTSD. There is a correlation of early childhood higher anxiety levels to lower resilience to overcome trauma.

How I treat Trauma

Your path to recovery from a trauma involves understanding your reaction to the event and finding healthy ways for you to cope with your emotions, feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. I often use an integrative approach to treat trauma/PTSD. I use techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as well as psychotherapy, Mindfulness, ACT, EFT, and other types of therapy I’ve trained on and maybe useful to the treatment, such as narrative, experiential, or EMDR techniques. I spend a great amount of time in psychoeducation on trauma and how the brain works. Symptoms of trauma/PTSD can be very intrusive, so it is important to find the right help from a competent professional.

Typical outcomes of Trauma/PTSD treatment

After completing treatment, patients can expect returning to an optimal level of wellbeing. Although, since PTSD is a form of anxiety problem and anxiety is connected to the body’s flight/fight/freeze/faint system, once activated, often times it cannot return to base level of zero, but can return to a healthy level of functioning that should not be interfering with wellbeing.

FAQ about Trauma/PTSD

How long is the treatment for trauma/PTSD?

Since there are many different levels of trauma, it is expected that the duration of treatment depends on the nature and severity of the trauma and the person’s resilience levels. It is usually resolved anywhere between some months to a couple of years. Treatment will end when patient has reached the goals set during therapy.

Do I have to take medication for trauma/PTSD?

Depending on the cases, I might recommend patients to see a psychiatrist and start on medication for PTSD, anxiety, nightmares, and/or depressive symptoms. Medication may be an essential part of PTSD treatment.

Can my symptoms come back?

Yes. Life happens. And with that, there may be situations that will trigger some symptoms, especially anxious feelings. Understanding where the anxiety is coming from and how it has been triggered will help subsequent treatments.

Consult with a psychologist to get help with your stress related to trauma or PTSD right away. Dr. Rosana Marzullo-Dove use many techniques to treat trauma/PTSD. Note that you will be feeling a wide range of feelings while talking about your trauma, but a good psychologist will know how to contain your emotions and have a solid treatment plan.

Call (813) 613-8587 now for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation.

Dr. Rosana Marzullo-Dove