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Trauma and PTSD Are Not the Same: Here's Why!

Trauma and PTSD

It's unfortunate, but around 70% of adult Americans have experienced some type of trauma in their lives. While some are able to recover and move on, for others, it might be more difficult. In fact, the trauma might even take over their lives.

Because of this, many people use "trauma" and "PTSD" interchangeably. But there are actually some key differences between the two, which you should know about. That way, you're able to use mental health terms more correctly.

Read on to find out what trauma vs PTSD is. We'll also discuss how to handle mental health issues so you or a loved one can live a healthier and happier life.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is the term for when you go through a major event in your life that has a significant emotional impact on you. It can happen just once in your lifetime (such as a violent attack), or it can occur repeatedly (such as battling grave illness).

In addition, trauma can be in varying degrees. For example, you might have some trauma from a car accident, or you might have serious trauma from an assault.

There are both mental and physical signs of trauma.

Mental signs of trauma include:

  • Confusion
  • Shock
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Feelings of numbness or disconnection

Physicals signs of trauma include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Muscle tension
  • Aches and pains
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Agitation
  • Startling easily

If you're interested in learning more about the physical signs of trauma, read more here.

What Is PTSD?

"PTSD" stands for "post-traumatic stress disorder." As you can see, the word "trauma" is in there. However, PTSD is not an interchangeable term with trauma.

This is because PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop from trauma. But do understand that not everyone with trauma will get PTSD, nor does everyone with PTSD suffer from prior trauma.

For instance, if you witness your friend get assaulted, you can still develop PTSD. You may not have suffered from trauma directly, but it's still an impacting event.

It's possible to have trauma without PTSD. In fact, some people with trauma never even suffer from even 1 symptom.

On the other hand, the symptoms of PTSD can take over your life and make things very difficult. They include:

  • Flashbacks to the traumatic event
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling on edge
  • Startling easily
  • Detachment
  • Negative thoughts
  • Memory problems
  • Guilt

As you can see, there are a lot of symptoms that overlap with trauma, which is understandable since PTSD can result from it.

For many people, PTSD symptoms might get better and then worse again. They can especially get worse when you're stressed out or encounter triggers.

Triggers are anything that might remind you of the traumatic event. They can be anything from a certain smell to a garment color and/or texture.

PTSD in Children

PTSD and childhood trauma are certainly possible, especially in the unfortunate cases of abuse and neglect. Children who have PTSD will actually have different symptoms when compared to adults.

Kids who suffer from this mental health disorder might have symptoms like:

  • Extreme separation anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Bedwetting

They might also act out their trauma as a way of processing it.

What You Can Do for Help

Regardless of whether you have trauma or PTSD, one thing might be clear: your mental state is disrupting your normal life, which is making it hard to carry out responsibilities and to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

In that case, you shouldn't navigate these difficult times on your own.

When it comes to trauma and PTSD, having the guidance of a professional therapist can be extremely helpful. They're able to go through treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is very effective for a number of mental health disorders.

Other treatment plans these professionals can put you on include mindfulness-based therapies, narrative therapy, and even eye movement and desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR). It's up to you and your therapist to determine which is the best for you.

Considering that many people of those who suffer from PTSD often suffer from substance abuse as well, it might also be beneficial for you to go to rehab. You'll also work with therapists in rehab to not only break your addiction, but to stay on track with sobriety.

On the other hand, if you're not the person suffering from PTSD, but instead, your loved one is, there are things you can do to help. For one, respect their boundaries but still offer them all the comfort and support they need.

This means that you shouldn't press them to talk about their trauma. This can make their PTSD even worse.

Instead, offer to do normal everyday activities with them. It may take some time and patience, but they might eventually come around and take you up on the offer. From there, they might open up and talk about what they're experiencing.

Know the Difference When It Comes to Trauma vs PTSD

When it comes to trauma vs PTSD, you now know the differences.

While the two are very similar, the key difference is that trauma may not always lead to PTSD. However, those who suffer from PTSD do have this mental health disorder as a result of the traumas they've suffered.

So if you think you or a loved one has suffered trauma and/or has PTSD, it's imperative that you seek professional help. Under the guidance of a therapist, you'll be able to work through your trauma and get a handle on PTSD if you do have it.

For more articles like this one on trauma and PTSD, please browse the rest of our blo site now.


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