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Treatment of Psychological Trauma

Psychological trauma can result from almost any physical injury, especially if the injury occurs within a life-threatening event. Injuries that are physically disfiguring or those which disable primary adaptive functions are more likely to result in psychological trauma. Additionally, psychological trauma can occur in the absence of any significant physical injury, either as the result of witnessing trauma in others, or following personal escape from serious injury following a traumatic event. Psychological trauma may result in a post traumatic stress response (the most commonly expected diagnosis), but it can also cause depression, specific phobias, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, or dissociation and psychosis. 

 The treatment of psychological trauma depends partially on the type of emotional problem being presented, but cognitive and behavioral treatment approaches work very well. Cognitive treatment involves identifying the emotional meaning of the trauma, or how the trauma is linked to fear, anxiety and depression. Changing the emotional meaning of the event is essential for the treatment to be effective. Behavioral approaches involve teaching the individual relaxation skills, pain management skills, and desensitizing the individual to trauma cues. This last process combines relaxation skills with mental imagery and sometimes real-life practice facing the feared situation. The amount of time needed to treat psychological trauma depends on the extent of the trauma, but can require more than a year of psychotherapy. Even then, most severe trauma will leave some permanent psychological scars. 

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