It is often said that our perceptions in life are based upon our experiences. But sometimes, these experiences aren’t positive. Trauma and stress-related disorders involve exposure to a stressful or traumatic event, which can range from verbal abuse to a car accident or time spent in war. Note that previously, trauma and stress-related disorders were categorized as anxiety disorders, but are now separated because some patients don’t have anxiety, but possess symptoms of dysphoria, anger, or aggression.


Described below are four major types of trauma/ stress-related disorders: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), Adjustment Disorders, and Reactive Attachment Disorder. For your benefit, we’ve included links to sites with more detailed information and/or relevant articles. Remember that if you or someone you know is experiencing a trauma or stress-related disorder or any mental illness, please seek help as soon as possible.



Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)



PTSD is a mental health issue that many people develop after experiencing a life threatening or significantly traumatic event such as a car accident, sexual assault, or combat. PTSD may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms don’t appear until the years following the event.

After witnessing or experiencing something traumatic, it is common to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping (due to nightmares, flashbacks, etc). PTSD can also make it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as going to school or work, or interacting with friends and family members.


It is important to note that symptoms of PTSD typically start soon after the traumatic event, but may not fully appear until months or years later. If these symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause serious stress, or continue to interfere with your daily life, they may be indicators of PTSD.

Although there are four officially recognized symptoms, it is imperative to note that they may be experienced in different ways for different people.

  1. Reliving the event (or re-experiencing symptoms). This can occur through bad memories, flashbacks, or nightmares.

  2. Avoiding situations, people, or places that remind the person of the event.

    • One may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of what occurred, or may even avoid discussing or thinking about the event.

  3. Holding negative beliefs and feelings.

    • After the trauma, people may feel as if they can’t change the way they think about themselves or the world. They may feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment, or simply are no longer interested in activities they used to enjoy. They find it hard to stay or even feel happy.

  4. Feeling keyed up (hyperarousal).

    • An example of this is feeling paranoid, jittery, always on edge, and having trouble sleeping. People may also have trouble sleeping or concentrating, and may become easily angry or irritable, or turn to unhealthy practices such as reckless driving, drug/alcohol abuse, or smoking

*It is also important to note that children six years or younger may show symptoms by:

  • Re-enacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through play

  • Having nightmares related to the traumatic event or that have resemblance to the event








  1. Trauma focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT)

  2. Prolonged exposure (PE)

  3. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

  4. Medication











Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)



In the weeks that follow a traumatic event, one may develop an anxiety disorder called acute stress disorder (ASD). ASD usually lasts at least 3 days to one month. If ASD symptoms last more than a month, the individual may be experiencing PTSD and should consult a physician.

ASD is also commonly diagnosed for people who have had mental health issues in the past, or tend to have symptoms like not knowing who or where they are when confronted with trauma.



People suffering from ASD will typically exhibit a few of the following symptoms:

  1. Feeling numbness, detachment, or emotionally exhausted/unresponsive

  2. Derealization (their own environment seems strange/unreal to them)

  3. Depersonalization (their thoughts/emotions don’t seem real or don’t seem like they belong to them)

  4. Dissociative amnesia: occurs when they cannot remember any aspects of the traumatic event





  1. Psychotherapy

  2. Medication

  3. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to prevent ASD from developing into PTSD


Adjustment Disorder



Adjustment disorder is a short term condition (less than six months after the stress event ends)  where a person has trouble coping with or adjusting to a particular source of stress that can be a loss, event, or major life development. Adjustment disorders may seem similar to PTSD because both are associated with anxiety that develops after exposure to a stressful event. With PTSD, this is a traumatic event, but with an adjustment disorder, the stressor doesn’t have to be a specific event, or as severe.

Adjustment disorders may be linked to a specific event such as a divorce or car accident, or multiple events such as marital problems. Stressors can also be recurring events such as chemotherapy, or financial difficulties.



  1. Depression

  2. Impaired social functioning

  3. Agitation

  4. Trembling/twitching

  5. Fear of separation

  6. Body aches

  7. Palpitations

  8. Conduct disturbances

  9. Anxiety, worry, stress and tension



  • Psychotherapy

  • Family therapy

  • Behavior therapy

  • Self help groups/peer groups

  • Relaxation techniques








Reactive Attachment Disorder



Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a rare yet serious condition examining unhealthy relationships between children and their caregivers. It occurs when a connection between a child and their primary parent/caregiver doesn’t occur, or is prevented due to negligence. This can occur due to:

  • Persistent disregard of the child's emotional needs/physical needs

  • Repeated changes of primary caregivers that prevent stable, healthy attachments

Children diagnosed with RAD have nothing neurobiologically or medically wrong with them that explains their failure to secure a healthy relationship with their caregiver. Instead, they fail to display healthy emotions and attachment to their caregivers due to limited physical contact and nurturing.



Common symptoms of RAD may start in infancy and extend into adulthood. Some symptoms are:

  1. Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability

  2. Sad and listless appearance

  3. Failure to smile, seek comfort or show no response when comfort is given

  4. Failure to ask for support or assistance

  5. Failure to reach out when picked up

  6. Watching others interact but only watching



  • Education of caregiver

  • Switch to a safe and stable living condition/environment

  • Develop positive relations with parents/caregivers

  • Provide a positive and stimulating environment for the affected

Sources/links we utilized





Adjustment Disorders: 


​Reactive Attachment Disorder:

Credit: Ted Talk
Credit: Crash Course Psychology