Many people are familiar with posttraumatic stress disorder, or have at least heard of it. However, did you know that there are other types of trauma and stressor related disorders? Trauma and stressor related disorders are defined by exposure to a traumatic or stressful event that causes psychological distress.
In the past, trauma or stressor related disorders were simply diagnosed as another type of anxiety disorder. That changed, however, when it was realized that these disorders were not based on anxiety or fear based symptoms. Instead, people affected by trauma or stressor related disorders primarily exhibited anhedonic symptoms (inability to feel pleasure), dysphoric symptoms (state of unease or dissatisfaction), dissociative symptoms, and an exerternalization of anger and aggressive symptoms. Although anxiety or fear based symptoms can still be experienced in individuals with trauma or stressor related disorders, they are not the primary symptoms.
This is why the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has recognized trauma and stressor related disorders as its own specific chapter. While PTSD is certainly one of the most well-known trauma and stressor related disorders, there are others that fit into this category as well, including:
Acute Stress Disorder
Acute stress disorder occurs when an individual is exposed to a percieved or actual threat to life, serious injury, or sexual violence, whether by directly experiencing or witnessing the event. There are five categories describing types of symptoms such as intrusion, negative mood, dissociation, avoidance, and arousal. Acute stress disorder is highly similar to posttraumatic stress disorder, however it occurs within the first month of exposure. Treating ASD early on can help prevent PTSD from developing.
Adjustment disorders are characterized by emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to a situation that occurred within 3 months of the symptoms. These symptoms are generally described as being out of proportion for the severity of the stressor and cause significant social, occupational, or other types of impairment to one’s daily life. Individual symptoms can vary and may include depression, anxiety, a mixture of depression and anxiety, and conduct disturbances.
Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED)
Disinhibted social engagement disorder is observed in children and characterized by acting in an extremely familiar way with strangers. Children with DSED have no fear of approaching and interacting with adults they don’t know, do not check back with their caregiver after wandering away, and are willing to depart with a stranger without hesitation. DSED can develop as a result of social neglect, repeated changes in primary caregivers, and being raised in a setting that limits the ability to form selective attachments.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
Reactive attachment disorder is observed in children between the ages of 9 months and 5 years, and is characterized by emotionally withdrawn behavior towards adult caregivers. Children with RAD rarely seek or respond to comfort when they are distressed, have minimal social and emotional response to others, and may be irritable, sad, or fearful during non-threatening interactions with caregivers. RAD can develop as a result of experiencing a pattern of insufficient care, such as with child neglect cases or kids in the foster care system who fail to form stable attachments.
Unspecified Trauma and Stressor Related Disorder
A diagnosis of unspecified trauma and stressor related disorder may be made when there is not sufficient information to make a specific diagnosis. It can be used to describe symptoms that are associated trauma disorders that cause distress and impairment, but that do not meet the full criteria for diagnosis.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.