What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological reaction to a severely stressful or physically threatening event. Any events that an individual finds deeply disturbing such as accidents, losses, and abuse or neglect can be traumatic and may cause PTSD. People who experience PTSD may continue to feel afraid or anxious long after the danger is no longer present.  Symptoms from trauma can affect concentration, sleep, ability to control emotions, physical health, addiction behaviors, thereby impacting relationships, work, and all aspects of life.

Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one or more of the following ways:

Directly experiencing the traumatic event.

Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others.

Learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or close friend. In cases of actual or threatened death of a family member or friend, the event(s) must have been violent or accidental.

Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s) (e.g., first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse)


Psychotherapy is the most commonly used approach in treating trauma/PTSD. Psychotherapy can assist clients who suffer from trauma with understanding their feelings and experiences, creating plans to stay safe, developing positive coping skills, and finding other support and resources. 11th Hour PTSD Trauma Retreat can help clients recover from trauma long after the event took place. Trauma that has not been dealt with is one of the leading reasons people seek counseling or therapy.

The most common therapies that have proven effective in trauma treatment are Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The goal of 11th Hour PTSD Trauma Retreat’s therapy is to provide a solid foundation and jump start to healing.

DSM5 defines a traumatic event as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Examples include:

Being involved in, or witnessing, a car accident

Undergoing major surgery

Experiencing or witnessing natural disasters

Experiencing or witnessing violent crimes and community violence

Experiencing Chronic physical or sexual abuse

Experiencing Repetitive on-the-job trauma

Having Exposure and/or witnessing crisis situations

Avoiding specific places, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as a reminders of the event

Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt

Intrusive repetitive thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks

Anger, irritability, or hypervigilance

Aggressive, reckless behavior, including self-harm

Sleep disturbances

Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable

Difficulty remembering details of a distressing event

A change in habits or behaviors since the trauma

Trauma is a subjective emotional experience of an event. It is a personal response; what is traumatic for you, may not be for someone else. The more endangered, helpless, and unprepared you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.

Types of Trauma include:
Acute Trauma – A single event that is limited in time (a robbery, a car accident)

Chronic Trauma – Multiple, repeated, prolonged traumatic events (domestic violence)

Complex Trauma – Exposure to chronic trauma and further impacted by wide-ranging, long-term, early onset, often by caregiver (abuse)

Chronic stress – Extreme stress experienced during childhood (poverty, neglect, physical abuse)

System Induced – Interventions meant to protect the child (removal, foster care, court)

Trauma and the Family

Families can be impacted by a loved one’s trauma in many ways. Often family members are also affected from exposure to the trauma second hand or due to the emotional and behavioral changes in their loved ones.

People who have suffered trauma oftentimes dull their emotions and feel detached from others. They sometimes distance themselves from others and their own thoughts of the traumatic event. They do not do this on purpose. When family members reach out to help, they are sometimes ignored or rejected. After which family members may become resentful or angry toward their loved one. This often triggers the person to become more withdrawn. Eventually this need to detach may lead to substance abuse, or loss of a job by their own actions. Some family members may feel guilty that they cannot help their loved one.

Other people with PTSD may act out in an angry aggressive manner. Their trauma may get trigged by seemingly nothing – when in reality it is an experience that causes the individual to recall the previous traumatic memory, (the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic), and it can cause the person to re-experience the original event. It can activate the original feelings and responses in the form of intrusive thoughts, negative emotions, negative self-referenced beliefs, and unpleasant body sensations. The family members may witness these events or be the target of them thus causing them trauma.

Research has shown that PTSD in one family member can affect the family dynamics and have a negative impact on other individual family members. People with PTSD have more marital problems than those without. Children of those with PTSD have more anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems than other children. Other problems experienced by individuals with PTSD, like substance abuse and neglecting healthy eating and exercise can have unintended harmful consequences on family members too.

Basic Brain Structure
Regulation – emotional and physical
Brain Development
All development
How do children cope with traumatic experiences?
Children deal with trauma through dissociation or hyperarousal – these responses are designed to keep themselves safe, yet they are labeled negatively. It can be difficult to understand their behavior because when children are unable to achieve a sense of control and safety they become helpless – which they deal with through compliance or defiance. If they are unable to grasp what is going on and unable to change it, they go immediately from (fearful) stimulus to (fight/flight/freeze) response without being able to learn from the experience. Subsequently, when they are exposed to reminders of a trauma (sensations, physiological states, images, sounds, situations) they tend to behave as if they were traumatized all over again. These efforts to minimize the threat and regulate emotional distress are often seen as problem behaviors. Unless caregivers, teachers, therapists understand the nature of such re-enactments they are liable to label the child as “oppositional”, “rebellious”, “unmotivated”, and “antisocial”.

Inability to regulate emotions
Disturbed attachment patterns – clingy, aloof, unable to be consoled by caregiver
Rapid behavioral regressions
Mood swings
Lack of initiative
Aggressive behavior against self and others
Cognitive, Speech and Motor delays
Lack of bodily regulation in the areas of sleep, food and self-care
Altered views of self and the world around them
Hyper-response, anticipatory behavior and traumatic expectations
Multiple physical problems, from gastrointestinal distress to headaches
Lack of awareness of danger and resulting self-endangering behaviors
Self-hatred and self-blame
Children’s Reactions to Trauma
Chronic feelings of helplessness/hopelessness
Altered views of self and the world around them
Hyper-response, anticipatory behavior and traumatic expectations
Multiple physical problems, from gastrointestinal distress to headaches
Lack of awareness of danger and resulting self-endangering behaviors
Self-hatred and self-blame
Trauma in children may be misdiagnosed as:
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Bi Polar Disorder
Conduct Disorder
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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