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What is the Difference Between PTSD and Trauma?

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Trauma and PTSD – Treatment Options for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Hi, I’m Gina Tabrizy with New Directions for Women.

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I am excited to be here and I wanted to talk to you about trauma. Trauma is such a hot button topic, and it is found everywhere in the news and social media. It’s connected with anything that has to do with healing people and mental health.

You are going to hear about trauma since it’s a big buzzword. You might start to have thoughts like “Oh my god, is everybody traumatized? I mean, does everybody have trauma?”

The reality is yes – every human being that is walking the planet at some point has some form of trauma.

We need to broaden the definition a little bit when you think about trauma like post-traumatic stress -which is how therapists diagnose clients. This is relevant especially if you’re thinking about life threatening events – but – when you think about trauma in general it should take into account anyone who experienced in their life span a time that they:

  • felt hurt

  • or injured

  • or they felt disregarded

  • or they felt unloved

  • unwanted

  • unnerved

  • not seen

  • not heard

  • not valued

Simply, the emotional basic needs of a human being have gone unmet.

One example could be a family where it was a two-parent home, but they were never home. You were that latchkey kid and you grew up feeling like “I don’t really matter”.

People that have the experience of trauma often feel like “I’m not enough” and “I’m not being valued; people don’t see my worth.”

If this is familiar – that might be an indicator to you that you’ve got some traumatic events that you’ve experienced in your life that you haven’t really dealt with or really dived into.

What is important with understanding trauma first, is that we can all heal.

It just like we continue to grow and live and thrive in our lives, that we can continue to grow and live past traumas.

So… don’t ever feel when you’re starting to identify with these emotions and these feelings within yourself that you’re stuck – because you’re never stuck!

There is always a solution.

There is always a way out.

But it always begins with awareness… if I don’t understand what’s happened to me and the root cause of what’s happened to me, then I’m really not going to get through this. I’m just going to carry around this baggage of trauma with me all throughout my life, from one relationship to the next.

Where trauma really shows up brightly in women is in relationships.

So… as women, when we don’t clean out the clutter of the closet of our trauma we bring it right into the middle of our relationship.

Many women who have had more extensive histories of trauma with a lot of abuse, a lot of neglect, (maybe it was physical, emotional, sexual, even spiritual to a certain extent) those women then go into relationships and they become extremely submissive.

They do not know how to use their voice, they don’t know how to speak up, they don’t know how to stand up for themselves.

This is an equal opportunity illness so men will also experience trauma in these ways and in these types of history… but what happens with women is we are taught to nurture and to be the caregiver and so therefore women tend to put themselves at risk in relationships when they have longer histories and more unprocessed or unresolved trauma.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say “well I’ve been in therapy this long and I’ve never ever talked about this and I’m gonna talk about it today.” Finally after 10 years or 20 years they started unburdening themselves.

Unfortunately, sometimes they never even get asked the questions. Nobody ever thinks to ask them -when you grew up did you feel like people loved you?

Did you feel like you were in a home where people cared about you?

Oftentimes when women are asked in an inventory of trying to assess and figure out what their issues are, they’re asked “Do you ever have any trauma?”

They usually say no, so you have to dig a little deeper and many times they will say”

  • “Yeah I felt very unloved”

  • “I felt like nobody cared about me in my house”

  • “I was often ignored”

  • “I was talked down to”

  • “I was belittled”

These are all examples of the verbiage. These are all issues and these are all concepts of trauma!

Why is it important to do the inventory?

Because if you do not learn where you came from and what happened to you – you’re doomed to repeat it. Like I said, you will repeat it in your relationships

What all of us want is to have a healthy loving and thriving relationships.

Women have defined themselves by where they keep repeating and choosing unhealthy and bad relationships for themselves, where they are being abused or they’re never feeling like they’re an equal partner.

It is time for you to do that work and that inventory – to figure out:

“Where did I learn this?”

“Where did learn to treat myself so poorly?”

One thing that I like to share and always say to trauma survivors – people that are working through trauma – “You need to know where you came from, so that you can change where you’re headed, because otherwise you’re going to keep doing the same thing expecting different results”.

Everybody knows this is the definition of insanity right, so we want to see you happy, healthy, and well!

One way that you do that is to just begin to learn a little bit more about yourself, start to identify the trauma in your life and those patterns of relationships, and then ask for help.

Something that you can do is to pick up a phone and call someone and reach out to a therapist or a counselor. Many people, especially women, that have any kind of trauma also have an addiction.

Trauma just fuels addiction and alcoholism. Drug addiction is fueled by having a history of trauma.

So… if you need help beyond just taking an inventory for yourself or talking to a friend, it’s important that you reach out.

New Directions for Women tackles trauma on a daily basis. We do not just look at the surface, we look at the underlying issues, and we take that inventory with you.

We use tools and therapists that are here to guide you, that really understand what it means to uncover and discover trauma, then to heal it.

You can have all those tools available to you to guide you to being a better, healthier more full human being, so that you can live the life that you were intended to live!

Thank you for listening and we look forward to hearing from you.


It’s very easy to confuse post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma because they have overlapping symptoms and similar names, given they both describe a type of trauma. Individuals with both conditions suffer from:

  • Avoiding the place or situation in which the traumatic event occurred
  • Feeling nervous or fearful
  • Nightmares

Although they are similar, PTSD and trauma are different in the severity, duration and treatment of the symptoms that occur.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is when someone experiences a frightening or terrifying event that causes them emotional distress to the point that it effects their daily life. The person either experiences the event themselves or witnesses the event happening. Some of the symptoms may include flashbacks of the event, nightmares, severe anxiety, or uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

“PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.”

Symptoms from PTSD can happen as quickly as within a month of the event, or even occur years later. The symptoms that women experience could affect their daily lives including social or work situations and in their relationships

What is Trauma

What is the Difference Between PTSD and Trauma?

When you think about trauma, it’s probably safe to say that every individual on the planet has experienced one form of trauma at one point in their life. Often, when people hear the word “trauma” they associate it with some sort of life-threatening event that has changed a person’s life. The reality is, that trauma can happen to anyone. Trauma is an event that causes someone to feel hurt, injured, disregarded, unloved, unwanted or unnurtured.

The most important thing to remember about trauma is that we are all capable of healing from it if we get the appropriate support to heal our wounds. Many times, women don’t get the proper care for their trauma and begin to hold onto their feelings surrounding their trauma, or emotional “baggage”, and carry it from one relationship to the next. Women are by nature nurturing, supporting of their family members, and favor harmony. This creates risk for women in relationship to recreate the same traumatic history that they had during their earlier life. When trauma is left unresolved, it is often repeated in future relationships because the woman has not addressed or healed those traumas to learn a different way of responding.

Types of Trauma

  • Physical or life-threatening event such as domestic abuse, car accident, drug overdose
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse/assault
  • Medical trauma
  • Military trauma
  • School violence or bullying
  • Traumatic grief or separation
  • Community violence (i.e. gang-related violence, interracial violence, police and citizen altercations, etc.)
  • Natural disasters
  • Forced displacement (i.e. refugees)
  • War/terrorism/political violence
  • and/or being a witness to any of the above traumatic events

How are PTSD and Trauma Different?

Although they have similar symptoms and often seem interchangeable, PTSD and trauma are different.

“According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. Trauma can occur once, or on multiple occasions and an individual can experience more than one type of trauma.”

PTSD is the mental health disorder that is associated when someone experiences or witnesses a trauma. Women will typically relive the event over and over in their head through flashbacks, dreams or intrusive thoughts. They will actively avoid places that may remind them of the event, and can be easily startled, have trouble sleeping and have angry outbursts that come out of nowhere.

Commonly, PTSD follows a traumatic event, although not all traumatic events that occur will result in PTSD. After the event, some will develop severe enough symptoms to diagnose PTSD, others will only have some symptoms and others will have none. Even though traumatic events can lead to devastating symptoms, or a PTSD diagnosis, know that it is possible for you or your loved one to recover from these symptoms, and/or diagnosis, and live a fulfilling life.

PTSD and Trauma in Women

Everyone can experience PTSD if they witness or experience a traumatic event. Both women and men who experience PTSD may differ in their symptoms or how they handle it. Typically, women have PTSD symptoms for a longer period than men.

Symptoms that women usually experience with PTSD include:

  • Be easily startled
  • Have more trouble feeling emotions or feel numb
  • Avoid things that remind them of the trauma
  • Feel depressed and anxious

Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. Women who have gone through trauma, including women in the military, are more likely than men who’ve experienced trauma to develop PTSD. Among women who are raped, about half develop PTSD”.

Women who are dealing with PTSD are more likely to develop substance use disorders and need treatment that includes a dual diagnosis. Among female patients at New Directions for Women, the dual diagnosis rate is much higher than of men. Women typically become addicted more quickly and intoxicated at a faster rate than men.

Treatment at New Directions for Women

At New Directions for Women we treat every individual and are committed to serving ALL women. This means we treat all backgrounds, situations, and ages. We know the importance of including family members during recovery, which is why we offer children’s services, family counseling and family 12-step principles.

Types of Treatment

There are many modalities at New Directions for Women that are used to treat the individual women that come to our facility. We treat each case as its’ own and work with each patient to meet there needs. Some of the types of treatment methods that we use include:

Seeking Safety

An evidence-based treatment method that helps people in recovery who suffer from concurrent substance use disorder and trauma.


An interactive method of therapy that allows the person to act out or role play to help patients understand the inner and outer world experiences that they have gone through.


We treat women from various cultures, recognizing that it’s important to understand each woman individually based on their backgrounds. Wellbriety is a Native American curriculum that addresses intergenerational trauma.

Meditation and Spirituality

Daily mindfulness meditation, yoga classes, 12-step groups and faith-based treatments, and gardening sessions allow our patients to explore and reflect with their Higher Power.

Physical Activity

Daily exercise is an important aspect of recovery and allows the women in our program to release all the heavy processing that they experience daily. Some of the activities provided include ropes courses, paddle boarding, kayaking and indoor rock climbing.


Psychotherapy that allows women to heal from trauma much more quickly than from talk therapy, alone. It helps the information processing system from being blocked by the trauma impact and allows healing to resume.

Holistic Care

The connection between mind, body and spirit are apparent, and can help with the trauma healing process. Our calm environments for holistic services include our biosound lounge, mindfulness meditation and acupuncture are among some of the programs that help build internal comfort in the time when we are not processing the trauma we faced.

Our program has been proven to be effective because it allows women to recover with other women. Women have different needs than men, and addiction treatment modalities should reflect the needs of the women in our program. The reason for these differences is biological and sociological.

Contact our caring intake coordinators for more information about our rehab for women in Costa Mesa. We are happy to verify your insurance benefits and answer any questions about treatment.

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