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Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder

It’s all too common for people of all genders, races, and ages to experience trauma. Many people and health experts recognize that post-traumatic stress disorder comes from living through a traumatic event, whether it’s because of violence, sexual assault, military combat, or a life-threatening accident and can have serious and long-lasting mental and physical side effects. However, secondary traumatic stress is less recognized by the general population. 

What is Secondary Traumatic Stress?

A person can feel secondary trauma after being exposed to other people who have experienced trauma themselves. Secondary traumatic stress, or STS, is also known as compassion fatigue or compassion stress. It describes the emotional burden felt by the person who did not actually experience the trauma firsthand but hears about first hand trauma from another person. 

What are the symptoms of secondary traumatic stress?

The symptoms of STS are similar to those of PTSD and can be categorized based on a secondary traumatic stress scale. The categories can be divided into three levels: physical, psychological or emotional, and behavioral. The symptoms in each category can overlap, depending on the severity of the stress. 

Physical symptoms are the most obvious right away but can be overlooked as a cold or symptoms of another illness. They can include frequent headaches, soreness in the back and neck, inexplicable rashes, acne breakouts, clenching of the jaw or grinding your teeth at night, feeling exhausted, being unable to sleep, and having heart palpitations. 

Emotional and psychological signs of secondary traumatic stress can include emotional exhaustion, depression, anxiety, negative self-view, feelings of guilt or hopelessness, unhealthy eating habits or a lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, feelings of resentment, disassociation or depersonalization, reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy, emotional numbness, intrusive imagery and thoughts, irrational fears or heightened anxiety relating to their world view, or suicidal thoughts. 

Behavioral changes are common as well and can include an increased use of drugs or alcohol, avoiding social events at work or outside of work, being quick to anger, not being able to make decisions, experiencing imposter syndrome, difficulty with intimacy or other aspects of personal relationships, and unhealthy eating habits like skipping meals or binge eating. 

Who is at risk of secondary traumatic stress?

STS is most commonly associated with children of traumatized parents, whether their parents were traumatized from an act of violence or intergenerational trauma caused by war, famine or displacement. Refugee children have a much higher risk factor of developing STS than non-refugee children, and will also more likely experience traumatic life events themselves. 

Mental health care workers and social workers also commonly impacted by STS, including child protective services workers, juvenile justice education workers, emergency nurses, substance abuse counselors, and oncology workers. When their profession requires them to constantly be exposed to those who have experienced trauma, burnout and secondary stress are highly prevalent. When one of these workers has also experienced trauma in the past, they are even more likely to develop STS. 

First responders and trauma doctors and nurses also often experience STS. Job performance can be negatively impacted which can lead to detrimental outcomes for both the victims in need of help and the medical workers themselves. The risk factors of developing STS can vary depending on the job context, as well. 

A PTSD Injection Cure: Treatment for Secondary Stress?

A PTSD new injection treatment has recently been found to be highly effective in treating PTSD. This revolutionary injection is known as the stellate ganglion block (SGB). The SGB injection for PTSD has been found to help treat the traumatized by ‘resetting the fight or flight response’. 

The SGB injection to treat PTSD is a mixture of local anesthetic that is injected into the right side of the neck, where a bundle of nerve fibers (called the stellate ganglion) are located. Those suffering from PTSD typically have an overactive ‘fight or flight’ response. The stellate ganglion is responsible for regulating the ‘fight or flight’ response. 

The SGB shot works by bringing the overactive stellate ganglion back to normal. The stellate ganglion block for anxiety has proven to be highly effective in decreasing the debilitating symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety and depression. 

At PTSD Group, we have the PTSD doctors near you who can help you overcome your trauma. Our SGB doctors are highly experienced in administering the SGB injection to help those who suffer from PTSD life the life they deserve.

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