The symptoms of trauma exposure take time to develop, or they may occur in the hours and days immediately after. Because trauma symptoms are unique to the person, it can be challenging for friends, loved ones, and even medical providers to notice or recognize the outward signs of trauma before they evolve into a more significant mental health problem.

What is Trauma?

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” Trauma symptoms develop in the days, weeks, and months following a traumatic event. Although these symptoms are typical and expected based on the circumstances, some women struggle to overcome their trauma and move on with their lives. In these cases, seeking help at a Southern California women’s treatment center like Casa Serena may help. There are three types of trauma. The severity of your symptoms and how your symptoms evolve or resolve may depend on the kind of trauma you experience.

The three types of trauma are acute trauma, chronic trauma, and complex trauma. Acute trauma describes the type of trauma that results from a single adverse event. Chronic trauma occurs due to repeated and prolonged exposure to harm such as abuse or a violent relationship. Finally, complex trauma describes repeated exposure to different and multiple traumatic events. Often, those who experience complex trauma are witnesses to or victims of invasive and personal trauma.

How Does Trauma Impact Women?

Data from the American Psychological Association shows women are at a greater risk for long-term impacts of trauma. Some studies show women are more than twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder after a traumatic event. Women are also more likely to struggle with trauma symptoms that last far longer than those experienced by men. It takes an average of four years for women to receive a diagnosis and effective trauma treatment. This is compared to closer to one year for men.

The signs and symptoms of trauma are often different based on gender. Women are more likely to have symptoms such as avoidance, emotional numbness, shame, and self-blame. Women also experience high rates of co-occurring anxiety and mood disorders that develop due to trauma.


What Can Cause Trauma?

There are several reasons why women may experience different reactions to trauma. Statistically, women are more likely to be exposed to varying types of trauma than men. A typical example of this is sexual violence. Statistics show one in four women are raped before age 50 compared to 8% of men in the same age group. Women are statistically more likely to experience higher levels of other high-impact traumas such as domestic violence and physical assault.

Other circumstances or events that may cause trauma include:

  • Learning about the harm that occurred to a loved one, death or injury to a loved one, or serious illness.
  • Accidents.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Acts of terrorism.
  • Witnessing a violent event.

Women who experience trauma from military service are also at risk of developing PTSD, as are men.

How Does Trauma Impact Mental Health and Addiction?

There are several connections between trauma and addiction. The most common is using self-medication. It can quickly become overpowering when you or a loved one struggles with trauma’s painful and often unpleasant symptoms. In some cases, victims of trauma struggle to complete or participate in everyday activities and obligations such as going to work or school, socializing with friends, going to the mall, or taking care of family and loved ones.

It is not uncommon for trauma victims to turn to drugs or alcohol to help reduce emotional and physical pain associated with their trauma. Although substances are successful for a short time, the effects inevitably wear off, leaving you to struggle with your symptoms once more. This leads many to begin using or drinking at higher amounts and more frequent intervals to achieve a lasting escape from symptoms. Unfortunately, this dependency on drugs and alcohol can quickly lead to a substance use disorder and worsening mental and physical health symptoms. The safest and most effective way to overcome struggles with trauma and addiction is to seek support and help at a Santa Barbara women’s treatment program like Casa Serena. Our team of experienced, caring providers understands the unique ways trauma and addiction affect women and are here to help you begin your journey towards wellness. Contact us today to learn more about our Southern California treatment programs and how we can help.

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