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What Is Traumatic Stress?

  • Traumatic events are shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threaten death, serious injury, or threat to physical integrity.
  • Reactions to traumatic events vary considerably, ranging from relatively mild creating minor disruptions in the person's life to severe and debilitating.

  • Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are mental health diagnoses associated with traumatic stress reactions.

  • Other difficulties can co-occur with mental health symptoms, including physical health problems and changes in beliefs about safety.

  • For more information on trauma and symptoms of a traumatic event, download the Trauma Victim Information for Adult Victims of Trauma epamphlet.

What can be Helpful after Trauma?

How to Decide Whether You Need Professional Help

  • For many people, natural coping allows the reactions to gradually diminish.

  • When disturbing symptoms persist or worsen it may be useful to seek professional help.

  • If attempts to cope lead to unhealthy or unhelpful outcomes (e.g. alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from friends and family), it may be useful to seek professional help.

Treatment Options

  • Evidence-based (well researched) psychotherapy and medications are available.

  • There are many options for psychotherapy format (individual, groups) and approach.

  • No single treatment is effective for everyone and it may take time to find the right treatment fit.

Where to Go for Help

  • It is important to find someone with experience in treating people affected by traumatic stress.

  • A family doctor, local clergy, local mental health association, or health insurance carrier may be able to assist in the search for help.

  • The Clinician Directory is a service of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS). The ISTSS Clinician Directory makes it easy for you to find a clinician, counselor or mental health professional in your local area. The ISTSS Clinician Directory lets you consider many factors in searching for a clinician, counselor or mental health professional, including their discipline or specialty, special interests, populations served and languages spoken. ISTSS does not make specific referrals, but does make its list of members and their specialties available. This searchable database is provided as a public service and includes the names and clinical practice information of ISTSS Regular Members who choose to participate in this service.

Want more information on how to identify, address, and treat trauma? Check out the ISTSS repository of public education epamphlets and fact sheets.