Overcoming Trauma With Exposure Therapy


A woman sits with her fingers against her face trying to cope with trauma and abuse

How exposure therapy can help you face your fears and heal your traumas


Key takeaways:

  • Trauma and abuse can happen to anyone at any time.

  • Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include nightmares, flashbacks, physiological reactions, insomnia, and aggression.

  • Unresolved trauma can lead to things like OCD and eating disorders.

  • Types of exposure therapy include: in-vivo exposure, imaginal exposure, virtual reality exposure, prolonged exposure, and interoceptive exposure

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, 70% of adults have experienced some form of trauma in their lives. And, one in 11 people is diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in their lifetime. Traumatic events can occur in childhood or adulthood and symptoms can be immediate or delayed.


Exposure therapy, which is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can help treat trauma. It targets the patterns of behavior we use to protect ourselves from experiencing the trauma again. While these behaviors may help us cope, they can become disruptive and prevent us from living our best lives.


Trauma and abuse are more common than people think. From sexual assault and military combat injuries to car accidents and natural disasters, there are many ways trauma can be experienced. We’ll talk about how exposure therapy helps us to confront the cause of our traumas safely and healthily by exposing us to stressors in a controlled environment.


How trauma happens


Trauma can happen to anyone, anytime. It occurs when an event causes physical, emotional, or psychological harm.


We don’t have to experience the event firsthand, either. For example, learning about the death of someone we’re close to can be traumatic and result in PTSD. PTSD can also result from repeated exposure to graphic details of awful events, such as first responders who regularly encounter things like violence and death.


Common causes of trauma


Common causes of trauma include: