Trauma Treatment

Trauma Defined, Symptoms, What is Complex Trauma? Therapies, Medication & Inpatient Treatment

What is Trauma?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” [1] In a similar manner, psychological trauma is a response to an event that you may find highly stressful. You may experience trauma as a response to any event you find physically or emotionally threatening or harmful. In fact, a person also can experience trauma after witnessing a traumatic happening to someone else. With proper trauma treatment for mental health, people can address the root cause of the trauma and find constructive ways to manage their symptoms.

Some research estimates that 60–75% of people in North America experience a traumatic event at some point in their life. [2] Seeing that, trauma can cause a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms in the case of being in a war zone, a natural disaster, or an accident.

Traumatic Experiences

The Charity Mind in the United Kingdom made a list of potential causes of trauma including:

  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Traffic collisions
  • Childbirth
  • Life-threatening illnesses
  • Sudden loss of a loved one
  • Being attacked
  • Being kidnapped
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Natural disasters
  • War

Above all, traumatic events can be isolated or repeated events.

It is important during the treatment that we can determine the root cause of your trauma. For instance, childhood trauma can disrupt your normal brain development. And then, trauma can significantly affect your long-term emotional development, mental health, physical health, and behavior. And then, the sense of fear and helplessness may persist into adulthood. As a result, it will place the person at a higher risk of the effects of future trauma.

Trauma Treatment
 The best way to treat a client with a dual diagnosis of trauma and addiction is to develop a plan that includes ways to heal both at the same time. 

Three Main Types of Traumas

  • Acute trauma: This results from a single stressful or dangerous event.
  • Chronic trauma: This results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Examples include cases of child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence.
  • Complex trauma: This results from exposure to multiple traumatic events.

As a matter of fact, trauma can have long-term effects on the person’s well-being. If symptoms persist and do not decrease in severity, it can indicate that the trauma has developed into a mental health disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD develops when the symptoms of trauma persist or get worse in the weeks and months after the stressful event. This mental disorder is distressing and can interfere with your daily life and relationships. Moreover, PTSD symptoms may include severe anxiety, flashbacks, and persistent memories of the event.

Trauma Symptoms

Not everyone who experiences a stressful event will develop trauma. Some people may develop symptoms and will get better after a few weeks, while some may experience long-term effects.

A traumatized person can feel a range of emotions both immediately after the event and in the long term. They may feel overwhelmed, helpless, shocked, or have difficulty processing their experiences. Trauma, in addition, can also cause physical symptoms.

To begin with, if you’re traumatized, you may have emotional outbursts. Consequently, you’ll find it difficult to cope with how you feel, resulting in your withdrawal from others. Additionally, you may experience flashbacks. This is where you relive the traumatic event in your mind, and sometimes in a form of nightmares.

The symptoms of trauma range from mild to severe. A person who has experienced trauma may feel:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Numbness
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating

Along with your emotional reaction, trauma may also cause you physical symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Feeling jumpy

Sometimes, a person will also experience hyperarousal, or when someone feels as though they are in a constant state of alertness. This may make it difficult to sleep. Individuals may also go on to develop other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems.

Trauma Treatment
Often, the underlying causes of addiction can be traumatic experiences.

Complex Trauma

Trauma, the kind you’ve likely heard of, can develop after a distinct traumatic experience. It occurs when the brain and body are so overwhelmed that they have a hard time easing out of “fight, flight, or freeze” mode and coming back into a relaxed state.

Trauma may refer to a single incident, while complex trauma refers to a series of traumatic events that take place over a long period of time, like months or years.

When you experience a traumatic event, it activates the limbic system in the brain. This “fire alarm” shuts down all nonessential systems (rest, digestion, sleep) and floods your body with stress hormones, like cortisol, so you can prepare for a fight, flight, or freeze.

Once the danger passes, your parasympathetic nervous system provides an inner calm, otherwise known as your “rest and digest” mode.

At this point, the normal cognitive function returns, and you can go back to your day with relatively few side effects, perhaps only feeling a little jittery for a while, or a bit on edge.

But for people who live with complex trauma, this balance doesn’t quite return all the way.

Some symptoms of complex trauma include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Lapses in memory
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Hyperarousal, or being “on alert”
  • Dissociation or lapses in memory
  • Depersonalization or derealization
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares
  • Struggling in interpersonal relationships
  • Low self-esteem or negative self-perception
  • Avoiding people, places, or scenarios that upset you

The good news is that several treatments can help people with trauma to cope with their symptoms and improve their life. But, you will need to work with a trauma-informed or trauma-focused therapist to attain effective trauma treatment.

1. Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is one specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is 12-session psychotherapy for trauma. CPT teaches you how to evaluate and change the upsetting thoughts you have had since your trauma. By changing your thoughts, you can change how you feel.

Trauma can change the way you think about yourself and the world. You may believe you are to blame for what happened or that the world is a dangerous place. These kinds of thoughts keep you stuck in your PTSD and cause you to miss out on things you used to enjoy. CPT teaches you a new way to handle these upsetting thoughts.

Benefits of Trauma-Focused Therapy

Trauma Treatment
Those who are going to treatment for both trauma and addiction will have a longer length of stay due to the complexities involved in the trauma healing process. 

2. Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged Exposure (PE) is a type of psychotherapy for PTSD or trauma. It is one specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. PE teaches you to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations that you have been avoiding since your trauma. By confronting these challenges, you can actually decrease your PTSD symptoms.

3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

It is another common trauma therapy. EMDR aims to help people process and integrate traumatic memories. Several trials have demonstrated that EMDR is an effective trauma treatment.

Its ability to rapidly treat unprocessed memories of these adverse experiences has important implications for the medical community, as they appear to be the foundation for an array of clinical symptoms. Clinical applications of EMDR include a wide variety of psychological problems affecting patients and family members, as well as stress-induced physical disorders and medically unexplained symptoms. 

4. Stress Inoculation Training

It is also one specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). By teaching you coping skills, SIT can help you find new ways to deal with PTSD symptoms. These skills can also help you manage other stressful situations or events in your life.

Medication for Trauma

Medication can help you manage your symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. However, medication alone cannot cure trauma or PTSD. You should talk to a mental health professional about your medical options.

Furthermore, it is especially important to seek help if the trauma symptoms interfere with daily functioning or relationships with others.

Medications probably won’t get rid of your symptoms, but they can make them less intense and more manageable.

Trauma Treatment
Psychotherapy and medication are often used to help a person deal with symptoms of trauma.

Inpatient Trauma Treatment

Treating dual diagnosis clients is a critical aspect of an inpatient treatment experience; because co-occurring disorders are strongly correlated with instances of substance abuse.

More often than not, people with mental health disorders either seek clinical medication or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. People that acquire prescriptions for their condition are less likely to develop abuse disorders, but conversely, often the medications that they get access to have high abuse potential, creating great risk.

Creating a treatment plan that addresses the physical aspects of withdrawal, the psychological connection with drug use, and addressing underlying mental health disorders is all a part of setting clients up for success. A thorough mental health analysis identifies opportunities for trauma treatment. Meeting with mental health counselors and medical care providers means access to behavioral therapy and medication treatment. Proper treatment leads to change for better, healthier living. 

NJ Trauma Treatment Center

Most people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. Some may experience symptoms of shock and distress, and most will recover within a short period. Meanwhile, a minority will experience more long-term traumatic effects, such as the development of PTSD. That is when therapy and self-care can help those with persistent trauma symptoms. Certainly, professional trauma-informed treatment can manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Too often, trauma leads to alcoholism or drug abuse. [5]


At the We Level Up NJ treatment center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. All working as a team providing primary SUD treatment along with primary substance abuse and co-occurring secondary Trauma Treatment for successful recovery. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions. Your call is private and confidential and there is never any obligation.

Trauma Treatment
Each treatment plan for dual diagnosis is most often individualized depending on the client’s needs and the severity of the trauma and addiction.