Trauma and PTSD and the Levels of Concern

Trauma is something that everyone has heard about. Most people think of trauma as a specific event happening to a person.

However, neuroscience has proven that trauma occurs depending upon your level of sensitivity, and your level of stress at the time something is happening to or around you, that you don’t feel supported in addressing. Trauma, along with your individual level of sensitivity and the stress level in your life, is the underlying issue in almost all mental health issues including addiction and eating disorders.

Everyone handles stress in different ways, and everyone has different levels of sensitivity. When someone with a high level of stress, but a lower level of sensitivity experiences a terrifying event, they usually manage to get through it and move on with their lives in a more or less healthy (by standards today) way. However, when someone with even a moderate level of stress and a high sensitivity level experiences a terrifying event and doesn’t feel supported or hasn’t been taught how to take care of themselves or get support with their feelings, damage occurs to mental health and as more and more even small daily life traumas occur, this can build into what is labeled in the mental health field as post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the DSM and the Mayo Clinic website: “post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.”

However, in neuroscience, that is not what they are proving to be true for everyone. The vast majority of people in the world, think of this as true, but they do not realize that they are often actually self-medicating with prescription pills, alcohol, marijuana, sugar, and other substances to numb out their own reactions to stress and traumas so that they don’t have to address their issues.

Having found a high level of self-medication in the intensive outpatient clients at Gateways to Transformation and at our sister residential facility Rites of Passage, we utilize neuroscience therapy along with ecotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, somatic therapy, and other experiential therapy modalities to address trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder that is held in the mind and body of each individual.

The various levels of trauma and PTSD that we address here at our treatment facilities include:

A Trauma Stress Response

Normal stress response is what occurs before PTSD begins. However, it does not always lead up to a disorder. Events like accidents, injuries, illnesses, surgeries, and other sources of unreasonable amounts of tension and stress can all lead to this response. With adequate support from someone you feel is safe, this tends to abate fairly quickly unless you are highly sensitive and have not been taught how to handle that part of your personality well.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder, although different from PTSD, often occurs in people who have been exposed to what is or what feels like a life-threatening event. These include Natural disasters, loss of loved ones, loss of a job or risk of death are all stressors that can trigger acute stress disorder. If left untreated, acute stress disorder can, and often does develop into full blown PTSD.

Uncomplicated PTSD

Uncomplicated PTSD is often linked to one major traumatic event, versus multiple events, and is the easiest form of PTSD to treat. Symptoms of uncomplicated PTSD include avoidance of trauma reminders, nightmares, flashbacks to the event, irritability, mood changes and changes in relationships. Uncomplicated PTSD can be treated through therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is caused by multiple traumatic events, not just one. Complex PTSD is common in any kind of abuse or domestic violence cases, repeated exposure to war or community violence, or sudden loss. Treatment of complex PTSD is more intense than uncomplicated PTSD. Many Individuals with complex PTSD can be diagnosed with borderline or antisocial personality disorder or dissociative disorders. They almost always exhibit more intense behavioral issues, such as impulsivity, aggression, substance abuse or sexual impulsivity. They can also exhibit extreme emotional issues, such as intense rage, depression, or panic.

Comorbid PTSD

Comorbid PTSD means PTSD along with other co-occurring disorders. It is diagnosed when a person presents with more than one mental health concern, often including substance abuse or eating disorder issues. Comorbid PTSD is extremely common, as many people suffer from more than one condition at a time. When this occurs, both or all issues need to be addressed in therapy at the same time.


Many people who suffer from any type of PTSD try to treat it on their own instead of going in for help.

This usually includes self-medication of some type and other destructive behaviors. Using drugs or alcohol as a way to numb the pain until it does not work for them any longer and they seek help.

At Gateways to Transformation, we have various programs to treat different kinds of trauma and PTSD:

  •  The Phoenix Rising Victim to Victory intensive outpatient program that addresses the first three levels of PTSD.
  •  The Quest Gap Year Program to work with young people experiencing ‘Failure to Launch’ which can have roots in trauma, stress, and sensitivity.
  • We have two different veteran’s intensive outpatient programs which all people with trauma levels 4 and 5 are invited to participate in:
  •  Women’s program Finding Your Way Home
  •  Men’s program Coming Back to Life

At our sister business Rites of Passage, we cover all levels of Trauma and PTSD in our trauma program which is the basis of all our residential programs.





Traumatic stress: effects on the brain J. Douglas Bremner, MD*

Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person: Improving Outcomes for That Minority of

People Who Are the Majority of Clients 1st Edition by Elaine N. Aron


The PTSD Workbook 2nd Edition: Mary Beth Williams,PhD, LCSW, CTS, Soili Poijula, PhD.


The Mind-Body Workbook for PTSD a 10 week program for Healing After Trauma: Stanley H. Block M.D, Carolyn Bryant Block

Using Neuroscience in Trauma Therapy Creative and Compassionate Counseling

By Julie A. Uhernik

Novel, Neuroscience-Informed Approaches to Trauma Care in Community Clinical Settings Andrew Oberle, MHA

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