Trauma and PTSD

What is trauma, how does it affect you, and what can you do to overcome it? If you or a loved one has experienced a recent or past trauma, been abused as a child or in a current relationship, you may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a related trauma based response. Trauma causes reactions like PTSD but also depression and other anxiety disorders like panic, phobia’s, chronic worry or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, hypervigilance, numbing of normal responding, mistrust of others, social anxiety disorder, and many other concerns, especially substance abuse. Generally speaking if you successfully resolve the trauma, it will also help to reduce or eliminate other related symptoms!

Approximately 15 to 25% of any traumatic event leads to the development of PTSD and especially severe traumas called “high magnitude trauma” may double this rate! Interpersonal violence, such as torture and assault, and prolonged and/or repeated events such as childhood sexual or physical abuse, are more likely than natural events (like earthquakes or natural disasters) to results in a traumatic response.

PTSD involves a cluster of three key symptoms:

  • re-experiencing (nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts/images)
  • increased arousal (feeling on edge, easily startled, chronic tension or worry)
  • avoidance or numbing of responsiveness (avoiding situations related to the trauma, like where it happened, or learning to numb out your normal responsiveness to life)

The type, amount or duration, and age at exposure to trauma all play a role in its development. While psychological trauma can occur at any point in the lifespan, trauma has its most profound impact when it occurs during early childhood or adolescence and becomes less pervasively damaging with later onset. Trauma that occurs during these developmentally vulnerable times can lead to PTSD, and/or an array of other difficult conditions and symptoms.

The term “complex PTSD” was coined by Dr. Judith Herman in 1992 to describe the effects of early trauma. “Complex” traumas often involve parents, siblings or caretakers as perpetrators, and tend to occur multiple times while the emerging self is forming. These types of traumas cause disruptions in fundamental relationships. When trauma occurs during childhood, is frequent or prolonged, and/or involves interpersonal abuse (such as childhood sexual or physical abuse), other distressing symptoms in addition to PTSD may develop. These symptoms include: disturbances in emotional development, problems with clear thinking, physical illnesses, and potentially serious disruptions in your relationships or ability to connect with others.

Successful Treatment of Trauma and PTSD

There are effective, therapeutic approaches to address past trauma based on rigorous scientific research: Prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and EMDR. All of these therapies are helpful in that they allow you to process traumatic material in various ways. For any therapy to be truly effective you need to develop a solid, trusting relationship with your therapist and be ready to work on these issues. Since trauma, especially when encountered in childhood, can affect your connection with others, the link formed between your therapist and you is very important. The degree you feel connected to your therapist will help you gradually confront what happened to you. Disclosing and processing traumatic material (memories, images, related thoughts and feelings) is the primary way of recovering from Trauma and PTSD. The goal is to confront rather than avoid traumatic material and also to create a coherent life history that contains both the trauma story as well as your personal successes. Successful treatment would gently encourage you to feel and engage the emotions associated with the trauma as you progress in therapy. By doing so you can move beyond your trauma and into a life worth living!

If you are struggling with trauma or PTSD, you deserve to get the help you need to lead a happier, more fulfilled life. Please call today at to learn how I can help.



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Romney Ryan, PhD

Counseling for families, adults, & children

t. 707.239.2782  

633 Cherry Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Romney Ryan, PhD

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