Someone who has experienced one or more traumatic events may find themselves continuing to struggle with the effects of it long after the event has occurred. Symptoms such as irritability, hostility, and hypervigilance can impact their day-to-day behaviors, as can social isolation and loss of interest in the things they used to like. Some of the most painful symptoms that trauma can cause can include nightmares, flashbacks, crippling anxiety, and fear. When the effects that trauma can bring are not properly addressed, these symptoms can negatively affect their lives tremendously.
The National Council for Behavioral Health reports that 70% of adults experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. That equals out to roughly 225 million people of the 328 million people living in the United States. Of those hundreds of millions of people are individuals who are also experiencing a co-occurring substance use disorder. In fact, those who seek treatment for trauma are 14 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder.
What Events are Traumatic?
Traumatic experiences can actually change the functionality of the brain. For example, when a traumatic event occurs, the amygdala creates a fight-or-flight response in the body. The amygdala is a part of the brain that is responsible for alerting a person of threat and sending signals to help deal with that threat. When a traumatic event happens, the amygdala releases that fight-or-flight reaction and then remembers to do so next time the traumatic event occurs or something like it occurs. The prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of regulating emotions and decision-making, becomes affected by the traumatic event and does not function as it is supposed to. Therefore, when the amygdala produces over-reactionary responses to trauma, the prefrontal cortex is not able to fully process those responses or act on them. This can result in symptoms such as impulsivity and hypervigilance.
So, what events cause trauma? Ranging from children to elderly individuals, traumatic events can occur anywhere at any time. Some of the most common traumatic events that people experience include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Physical abuse
- Mental abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse (including rape and sexual assault)
- Witnessing any type of abuse
- Community violence (presence of gangs, frequent robberies or muggings)
- Combat exposure
- Bullying (including cyber-bullying)
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods
- Serious physical injuries that result from events such as car accidents, animal attacks, etc.
- Severe health conditions such as cancer
- Terrorism (both domestic and international)
- Being a victim of racism, sexism, or LGBTQ+ abuse
Some people may experience one traumatic event in their lives, while others may experience several. Unfortunately, trauma affects the brain no matter what the specific traumatic event is. The three types of trauma include:
- Acute trauma – when one traumatic event is experienced
- Chronic trauma – when repeated and prolonged exposure to trauma is experienced (e.g. being a victim of domestic violence)
- Complex trauma — when multiple traumatic events are experienced
Who Experiences Trauma?
Trauma can happen at any time, at any age, and to anyone. This means that children, adults, elderly individuals, and even babies can suffer the effects of a traumatic event.
As mentioned before, approximately 70% of Americans experience one or more traumatic events in their lifetime. Men are at higher risk for experiencing trauma than women are, however it affects both genders almost equally. Trauma impacts 60% of men and 50% of women. This means that 6 out of every 10 men and 5 out of every 10 women experience at least one traumatic event.
While trauma is something that can happen to anyone, there are a handful of individuals who tend to experience trauma more frequently than the average American, such as:
Minorities, such as African American and Hispanic individuals, experience trauma at disproportionate rates in comparison to Caucasian individuals. The underlying issue of systemic racism in America has created issues for minorities that impact their financial, physical, mental, and environmental wellbeing. As a result, common traumatic experiences minorities face often include community violence, the sudden loss of a loved one, abandonment, and of course, racism. Approximately 8.7% of African-American individuals develop posttraumatic stress disorder, while Hispanics develop it at a rate of 7%.
Women are twice as likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder than others and tend to shy away from obtaining treatment for their symptoms more than others, too. The most common traumatic event that women experience is sexual assault, with one in three women being sexually assaulted at least once in their life.
Members of the military
The brave men and women of the military are tasked with the job of protecting the country at all costs. This means that they are exposed to all types of traumatic events on a somewhat regular basis, including being wounded, having to use their weapon, experiencing or witnessing a severe injury, the sudden loss of members of their team.
How is Trauma Treated?
Specific to members of the military, rates of trauma are exceptionally high, as are rates for posttraumatic stress disorder. Given the circumstances of the profession, it is unlikely that those who join the military will not witness or experience a traumatic event. That is why rates of PTSD are so high in this population. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports the following rates of PTSD per recent wars:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom — 11-20% of military members developed PTSD
- Gulf War — 12% of military members developed PTSD
- Vietnam War — 15% of military members developed PTSD
At Hathaway, we offer trauma therapy for those individuals who have served our country in one way or another. We also offer first responder programs.We realized that PTSD, substance use disorders, and other mental illnesses are common in these careers given the requirements, which is why we are able to provide services to our nation’s heroes.
Through the HEROES program, we ensure that all service members, their families, and veterans are afforded the best possible trauma therapy. We believe that professional treatment services should be easily accessible to these individuals, which is why we have partnered with TRICARE at our trauma therapy Los Angeles. TRICARE offers coverage for the following:
- Active-duty servicemembers and their families
- National Guard/Reserve members and their families
- Retired service members and their families
- Retired Reserve members and their families
- Former spouses
- Medal of Honor recipients
- Dependent parents and parents-in-law
- Foreign force members and their family
Hathaway also accepts several different types of insurance so that those who need help the most can get it easily.
Aftercare services are extremely important for all recovering patients, as they can help keep them in recovery and focused on their goals. At Hathaway, we work with all of our patients to determine what aftercare services are most suitable for their continued needs. Our aftercare services work to provide the following for each patient:
- Goal setting and methods of achieving those goals
- What areas of a patient’s recovery needs to be maintained and how to do that
- What areas of a patient’s recovery need further work and how to do that
- Connection to local support groups
- Referrals to therapists and other mental healthcare professionals
- Referrals to legal professionals
- Connection to alumni services at Hathaway
We focus on trying to get all patients to remain in trauma therapy San Bernadino as long as reasonably possible, as studies have shown higher rates of long-term sobriety in those who spend more time getting professional treatment. We encourage all of our patients, both past and present, to contact us anytime they are concerned about their recovery or ability to stay sober.