The word stress has become a common word to explain the heightened level of anxiety we experience in a given situation. Typically, as the event subsides, so do our heightened emotions, and within a short time we are able to return to normal daily functioning.

The experience of trauma and stress as defined in the DSM-5, relates to more extreme traumatic stressors such as witnessing a death, or a physical threat to self or others. Often in traumatic events, severe anxiety will develop along with other symptoms of dissociation. An individual experiencing this kind of acute stress often has difficulty concentrating, experiences recurring images, thoughts, and dreams, and can relive the distress when exposed to reminders of the traumatic event.

As with most psychological processes, individual experiences to the same event may vary between two people in both duration and intensity of the symptoms. Many factors contribute to the emotional experience of a traumatic event including the nature of the event, previous life experiences, personality, coping skills and available support following the event.

Individuals who suffer from acute stress and trauma can experience many of the below physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia and general sleep disturbances (dreams etc)
  • Indigestion problems
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Mood instability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weak immune system
  • High blood pressure

Experiencing these physical symptoms over a long period of time can be extremely harmful to an individual’s daily functioning and overall health. Therefore it is important to address the underlying issues behind the trauma. In addition to these physical symptoms, individuals can also experience cognitive, behavioural and emotional dysfunction as a result of the trauma.

Art Therapy can be useful for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event and are suffering from ongoing acute stress. Activities can facilitate memory reconstruction as well as aid in self-regulating sensory experiences. Art Therapy also provides a relief from verbal communication demands, and allows the individual to explore self-expression through visual communication.

* Check back regularly for updates to this page as we add more useful resources.

Subtype trauma/stress disorders


  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Acute Stress Disorder
  • Other Specified Trauma/Stress-Related Disorder
  • Unspecified Trauma/Stress-Related Disorder