1. Impact or “Emergency” Stage
This stage occurs immediately following exposure to a traumatic event. The aftermath of a traumatic event leaves an individual confused and struggling to come to grips with what has occurred. The individual will be struggling with shock in addition to being hypervigilant, experiencing atypical anxiety and possibly experiencing feelings of guilt or shame.
2. Denial Stage
This stage is not universal amongst individuals exposed to a traumatic event. The individuals who experience this stage will exhibit strong feelings and emotions triggered by flashbacks and intrusive thoughts related to the traumatic event however they will attempt to avoid the intense and unwanted emotions and feelings. The avoidance can be either conscious or unconscious and is reminiscent of repressed memories. Individuals who engage in alcohol or drug use during this stage are particularly vulnerable as the substances will assist with emotional numbing and, if excessively used, will deteriorate neural pathways.
3. Short-term Recovery Stage
This is the stage whereby an individual suffering from PTSD will attempt to return pre-trauma everyday life. Nightmares and flashbacks continue which can make the return to normal everyday living difficult. Individuals can experience shifts in values and attitudes which can lead them to either continue seeking support and help from others or lead them to become disillusioned, despondent and hostile leading to the rejection and avoidance of help and support.
4. Long-term Recovery Stage
During this stage the individual continues to experience trauma related symptoms such as anxiety and nightmares however, with continued professional and familial/social help and support, these symptoms can be reduced and eventually overcome. The individual feels a greater sense of hope that life can return to normal. This is the phase most associated with the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG).
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