According to statistics, a lifetime history of sexual abuse among women ranges from 15 to 25 percent and the prevalence of domestic violence among women in the United States range from 9 to 44 percent. The cost of intimate partner violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls, was estimated to be $8.3 billion in 2003 and this total includes the costs of medical care, mental health services, and lost productivity. In a 2008 study by RAND, 18.5% of returning veterans reported symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. In the United States, 18.9% of men and 15.2% of women reported a lifetime experience of a natural disaster. Therefore trauma and mental health share very prevalent link and are known to be the underlying trigger for multiple substance abuse disorders. Trauma can be divided into two major categories: catastrophic events such as physical abuse or injury, sexual assault or a natural disaster or repetitive emotionally painful experiences such as child neglect, bullying, verbal abuse or the loss of a parent. Many think of trauma as the former however the latter can result in indefinite emotional scars leading to eating disorders and other mental health illness such as depression or anxiety.

Warning signs associated with linked trauma and mental health:

  • Nightmares
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Strain on relationships
  • Social isolation/withdrawal
  • Avoiding certain situations due to fear
  • Living with constant stress/fear
  • Anxiety
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Changes in appetite

Posttraumatic stress disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that involves severe anxiety, fear, flashbacks and negative thoughts after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic life-threatening event. It is often thought by general society that this mental health disorder affects only veterans after returning from war but this is a preconceived misconception. Although many veterans may have posttraumatic stress disorder, this diagnosis can affect anyone who undergoes a traumatic experience. Firefighters involved in the world trade center collapse, police officers rescuing victims from the Oklahoma City and Boston marathon bombings, victims of plane and car crashes and individuals who have experienced rape are all at increased risk of developing PTSD.

Trauma and Mental Health Disorders

PTSD is not the only recognized mental health disorder associated with a traumatic experience. In fact, the majority of mental health disorders most likely have a component of past trauma. Therefore it is important to recognize and treat trauma in order to avoid developing a mental health or substance abuse disorder. Of course, trauma is not the only trigger for developing a mental health disorder, as there are many other causes that may contribute. The following are mental health disorders that are associated with trauma:

  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Phobias
  • Complicated grief
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Schizophrenia