Trauma- and stressor-related disorders while varied in their manifestations, are unified by a central theme: they emerge as a direct consequence of an individual’s exposure to traumatic or profoundly stressful situations. Such events, whether they be sudden tragedies or prolonged adversities, can profoundly shape an individual’s psychological response.

This chapter delves deep into these disorders, aiming to provide psychology residents with a comprehensive understanding that bridges theoretical knowledge with clinical application. Through this exploration, we aim to equip readers with the tools necessary to diagnose, manage, and empathize with those affected, while also preparing them for the rigors of the In-service exam and ABPN Psychiatry Boards exam.

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  • Bereavement: The state of experiencing the death of someone significant, rather than the emotional response.
    • The quality of social support the bereaved person receives can have a protective effect on their well-being.
    • In childhood, it is age-typical to exhibit separation anxiety and over-concern for the health of the surviving parent as part of their bereavement.
    • Children may also exhibit regression in bowel and bladder control and may also report seeing the deceased or believe that the deceased is watching over them.
    • Finding meaning in the loss is predictive of better adaptation in bereavement.
  • Grief: The natural emotional response that follows bereavement, encompassing thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and physiological responses. Can also occur with non-bereavement losses such as job loss or divorce.
    • When considering if a patient’s grief is defined as normal or abnormal, it’s important to consider cross-cultural grief practices.
  • Mourning: The adaptive process through which individuals adjust to a loss and assimilate their grief.
    • Successful mourning includes accepting the finality and impacts of the loss, renegotiating the relationship with the deceased, rejuvenating the ability to thrive, and reimagining a future where happiness and purpose can exist despite the absence of the deceased.
    • Finding new activities and relationships can help offset the patient’s loss
  • Prolonged Grief Disorder: A type of grief that is unusually lengthy, intense, and debilitating. It is characterized by maladaptive thoughts, dysfunctional behaviors, dysregulated emotions, and/or significant psychosocial issues that hinder adaptation to the loss.
    • Ambivalent relationship with the deceased, simultaneous grieving for multiple deaths, pre-existing low self-esteem and insecurity, and recurrent major depression can increase the risks of complicated bereavement.


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