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What Is Traumatic Stress?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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"Traumatic stress" is a term that is used to describe the development of moderate levels of depression and anxiety after undergoing one or more events that created a significant level of stress in the life of an individual. The term itself is considered more of a popular name for this type of phenomenon and not a truly medical term for a condition. Considered part of the family of adjustment disorders, traumatic stress can usually be managed with the use of therapy and medication for short periods of time until the individual adjusts to the changed circumstances and is ready to re-establish some type of regular routine.

The concept of traumatic stress is sometimes considered a forerunner to a more severe condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PSTD. Typically, an individual who is dealing with traumatic stress will be capable of continuing to function on many levels as the condition is treated, although with some diminished capacity. In contrast, the emotional stress and the resulting physical manifestations associated with PSTD tend to be considerably more severe and complicated, often impairing the ability of the sufferer to engage in a wide range of normal activities. The treatment process for PSTD is often more intense and comprehensive, and will normally require more time as part of the recovery process.

Treating traumatic stress involves many of the same methods used for any type of nervous disorder. As a precaution, most physicians will consider the possibility of physical origins for any anxiety or depression that may be present, such as a thyroid gland that is not functioning properly. Once any physical origins are eliminated from consideration, the course of treatment will often involve a combination of medication to alleviate the symptoms while using therapy to identify and treat the psychological origins of the condition. As part of the therapy, the patient may be able to express all the emotions connected with events that triggered the health issue and, with the aid of the therapist, be able to begin making sense of those events. As time goes on, the patient heals from the trauma and is able to begin participating in normal activities once more.

It is important to note that diagnosing traumatic stress is normally managed by a qualified medical professional. This is important, since a proper diagnosis paves the way for obtaining effective treatment. When diagnosed early on, treating the emotional and nervous disorders associated with the condition is normally easier and more effective in the short term. Failure to seek assistance early on can provide the negative emotions more time to deepen, requiring a more comprehensive course of treatment to resolve.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon336115 — On May 26, 2013

That PTSD babble is a bunch of crap. As one who has had it for over 40 years, I can attest to the fact that I function very nicely and never had to have "intensive therapy." I also have very good coping skills, and don't crumble or fall apart when something happens, such as a death.

What didn't make me "weak" most certainly made me stronger. Unless these doctors have suffered from PTSD, they really can't generalize and put everyone in the same category. They just love to do that.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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