Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders.

The most common characteristics of trauma and stress-related disorders are the absence or ability to experience pleasure, an emotional state of anxiety, depression, or unease, outbursts of anger or aggression, or removal from association (DSM-V, 2013).  Trauma and stress-related disorders include disorders in which exposure to a traumatic or stressful event is listed explicitly as a diagnostic criterion.  Trauma is typically defined as an extremely distressing experience that causes severe emotional shock to an individual.   Trauma could be caused by natural or man related disasters, such as death, rape, or accidents.  It is important to note that trauma is not limited to only people who have directly experienced such events, but also those who may have directly witnessed such an event as well.  The trauma or stress experienced by the individual may have long-lasting psychological effects and may manifest into a trauma and stress-related disorder in an individual.

What to look for?

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) occurs during infancy or early childhood and is typically caused by an underdeveloped connection between a child and his or her caregiver.  The attachment relationship is typically disturbed and inappropriately developed.  A child with RAD will often not turn to an attachment figure for comfort, support, protection, and nurturance. When a caregiver attempts to comfort the child or infant, under distress, there is no positive expression of emotion displayed by the child or infant (DSM-V, 2013).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in some people after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic eventOften, people with PTSD usually experience persistent thoughts, memories, and flashbacks in the form of intrusive memories or nightmares of the traumatic experience.  They may also experience numbness, problems with their sleep, or depression.  Symptoms of PTSD usually occur three months after the traumatic event.

Acute Stress Disorder is similar to PTSD but occurs only from three days to one month after witnessing or being exposed to the traumatic event (DSM-V, 2013).  If the symptoms persist beyond a month, PTSD should be considered.

Adjustment Disorder is characterized by a change in emotion or behavior because of an identifiable stressor or event (DSM-V, 2013).  Stressors can be anything from ending an intimate relationship, marital or business problems, unsatisfying sexual relationships, seasonal business problems, painful illness, dissatisfaction with current living conditions, getting married, going to school, or having children.

Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder is a pattern of behavior in which children actively approach and interact with relative strangers.  This overly familiar behavior violates the social boundaries of their culture.  Typically children with disinhibited social engagement disorder are not closely bonded with their primary caregivers due to extreme or insufficient care.

Types of Trauma and
Stress-Related Disorders:

  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Acute Stress Disorder

  • Adjustment Disorders

  • Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder


Treatment for trauma and stress-related disorders vary by individual and degree of symptoms.  Most often an individual suffering from a trauma or stress-related disorder will benefit from some form of medication and therapy.  Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), prolonged exposure therapy (PET), management training, relaxation training, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), cognitive restructuring, and stress inoculation training have been shown to be very effective in the treatment of trauma and stress-related disorders. 

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