counseling

Therapies for Overcoming PTSD

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of several mental health disorders affecting a large amount of the country’s population today. Like anxiety, depression, and similar mental health conditions, a PTSD diagnosis isn’t necessarily permanent or incurable. With treatment, patience, and time, symptoms of PTSD can be drastically reduced and potentially even eliminated.

Counselling session

Counseling Therapy

The largest and probably the most important part of treatment for PTSD is some form of counseling therapy. Because traumatic events can have physical effects, it is important to speak to a professional for help when experiencing PTSD. Not only are therapists trained to deal with every type of issue related to PTSD, counseling will help you to get on a treatment routine and learn how to cope with and effectively combat symptoms you may be experiencing. There are several forms of psychotherapy available:

  • Trauma-focused therapy
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE)
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapies CBT)
  • Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)
  • Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy (BEP)
  • Written Narrative Exposure

Trauma-focused therapy is considered the most effective PTSD treatment today. Trauma-focused treatment can include different styles of therapy, such as Prolonged Exposure, which is a form of treatment in which a person discusses his or her trauma over and over until the event becomes less disconcerting to the sufferer. It can also include visiting certain places or taking part in activities that the person may have been avoiding since the initial event. The memories and feelings associated with the event will begin to feel commonplace, no longer triggering fear or anxiety.

Another type of trauma therapy is Cognitive Processing Therapy, where the sufferer gradually learns to understand the ways that the trauma caused his or her feelings and thoughts to shift. CPT involves short writing assignments that help a person process his/her thoughts. When you change the way you view a trauma and how you think about it, it can change your feelings about it as well, also making it less upsetting of a memory. Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CBTs) are similar, focusing on specific behaviors or thoughts that the person has and helping to change them gradually.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a type of therapy that requires the sufferer to focus on back-and-forth hand movements or certain lights or sounds while thinking of and discussing the trauma, thus allowing your brain to process the emotions and thoughts associated with it and taking the focus off the event itself.

Narrative Exposure Therapy is especially beneficial for PTSD sufferers who have experienced violence and war trauma. The person is urged to talk through traumatic experiences in order that he/she experienced them and create a timeline and story out of the events. Written Narrative Exposure is similar, except that the person is allowed to write alone and the writing is discussed at the end of the session. Brief Eclectic Therapy is similar to CPT, changing negative thoughts but also encouraging the person to perform a farewell ceremony, writing a letter and effectively saying goodbye to the trauma.

counseling

Medication Therapy

Most doctors and therapists will prescribe a combination of psychotherapy and medication treatment for PTSD. Some medications prescribed for depression or anxiety will also treat PTSD, since the three are closely related and create a similar effect in the brain. Medications that regulate levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain can help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, and there are four main types that are recommended. There are also a handful of others that may be effective but study results aren’t as promising; a person’s therapist or healthcare provider can prescribe one that he/she thinks best in conjunction with psychotherapy recommendations.  

Additions to Therapy

Since PTSD affects the body as well as the mind, sufferers will want to recognize symptoms and seek out treatment sooner rather than later. Studies have shown that those who suffer from a mental health disorder can end up contracting illnesses more easily, so there is a definite connection between the mental and the physical. Sufferers of mental health disorders, specifically PTSD, should be sure to do everything possible to manage stress effectively, eat a healthy diet, and follow a consistent exercise routine in order to strengthen the body and prevent further illnesses.

Additional specific practices can help with PTSD, such as yoga, massage, meditation and mindfulness, or acupuncture. Other approaches such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy may help as well, but there is no supportive research to prove for certain whether these will help or not. However, anything that promotes relaxation and relieves stress can only be beneficial, so alternative therapies can be sought out to complement traditional therapy.

Conclusion

Several therapies exist for the treatment of PTSD, and each sufferer must find what works best for him or her in a specific situation. If one form of treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, at least there are other alternatives. Thankfully, with today’s technological advances, researchers have been able to make significant progress studying the brain and its chemistry as well as developing new and effective forms of therapy and medication. First and foremost, a person with PTSD must take good care of himself or herself in order to begin the road to recovery and journey back to both physical and mental health.

Frustrated businessman sitting at desk with head in hands

Signs and Symptoms PTSD Sufferers May Present With

If you have experienced a traumatic event, it’s entirely normal to be shaken up by it; in fact, it would be abnormal not to be. However, each person processes trauma in different ways, and for some, recurring flashbacks can turn into chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that can become debilitating. Recognizing the symptoms of PTSD so that it can be treated early on is key to being able to overcome it in the long term, so being aware of the signs is the first step. PTSD symptoms can show up soon after an event or not manifest themselves until months or even years later. Maintaining a healthy awareness of your mental state after a trauma will help you to prevent symptoms from becoming worse and interfering with day-to-day activities.

Depressed veteran meets with psychologist

Flashbacks, Thoughts, and Memories

One prevalent symptom of PTSD is flashbacks triggered by an event that reminds a person of the initial trauma. For example, a person who has experienced a car accident may have flashbacks when witnessing a car accident or the aftereffects of one on the side of the road. Sometimes, PTSD presents itself in the form of a memory or simply a thought that is distressing; while not triggering a full flashback, the person may return to the initial feeling of fear or panic that was experienced along with the event. Often, PTSD sufferers have upsetting thoughts off and on from day to day that may seem unrelated but can stem from the trauma and pain or anxiety that the person went through in the past.

Memories and flashbacks can also present themselves in the form of dreams and nightmares. What a person’s brain tells them during dreams is a clear indicator of what’s going on in the subconscious; therefore, a person may not even realize he or she is experiencing PTSD until waking up in terror during the night. Sometimes, a person will have recurring dreams about the traumatic event even without experiencing flashbacks during the day. For children, nightmares can occur frequently with PTSD, sometimes including bedwetting or other nighttime issues.  

Woman lying in bed

Emotional and Physical Responses

While one may not think an emotional response to stress or trauma can trigger a physical reaction, the two are indelibly connected and are impossible to separate. For some, prolonged symptoms of PTSD can trigger self-destructive habits, from substance abuse to self-harm to suicidal thoughts if left untreated. Sufferers often look for ways to self-medicate, seeking a way to escape the pain and harmful memories associated with trauma. Others may experience feelings of jitteriness or edginess, accentuated by insomnia or non-restful sleep. Still others may feel hyper-alert, fearful of any situation that may involve danger or trouble. Irritability is a common thread among all these symptoms, as well as heightened anger and aggressiveness. In children, some of the same symptoms may present as well as the child reenacting the event as a way of dealing with the trauma.

Frustrated businessman sitting at desk with  head in hands

Mood Shifts

PTSD sufferers, like those who experience anxiety or depression, are susceptible to mood swings and changes as a prominent symptom. In fact, the three are closely related in that PTSD can often cause depression, anxiety, or both, especially when the symptoms are left untreated. Some sufferers feel a sense of detachment from relationships and activities and have difficulties relating to family and friends. Negative thoughts and a hopeless feeling are also characteristic of PTSD, especially when a person reports lack of emotion or feeling numb.

Another common occurrence for PTSD sufferers is having trouble with memory and concentration, especially when it comes to memories of the actual event. Sometimes a person’s brain blocks out trauma in an attempt to deal with the experience, but the subconscious remembers and reveals symptoms in the form of memory issues and lack of focus. Also, some may feel overly guilty or have increased negative thoughts about himself or herself, the future, or life in general.

Avoidance Behaviors

Naturally, a person who has been through a trauma does not want to repeat or relive it, so some deal with it by avoiding thinking or talking about it. Some may try to pretend it never occurred, even trying to convince themselves of this fact. Oftentimes a person will avoid a person, place, or object that triggers memories of the event; for example, if a person talked to a specific friend immediately after the event, talking to that person may bring up bad memories associated with the trauma even though that person may not have been involved. Sometimes a sufferer will even try to avoid experiencing a certain feeling he or she may have experienced in connection with the event. While these behaviors of avoidance are natural, they only serve to keep the sufferer from dealing with the emotions and symptoms of the event, preventing him or her from processing it in such a way to be able to move on and return to normal, everyday activities and functioning.

Conclusion

Signs and symptoms of PTSD can and will present themselves differently for each individual, but some of the patterns may remain the same. While it may be hard to recognize subtle symptoms in yourself, having a good support system of close friends or family can be beneficial following a traumatic event so that they can help you know what to look for and when to seek help. Treating symptoms at an early occurrence will make it much easier to diagnose and overcome PTSD before it persists and worsens into a chronic condition that is much tougher to recover from. It also can help prevent behaviors from becoming self-destructive or hurting others.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Who is Affected by PTSD and Why

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects a large percentage of the population. While most people associate PTSD with war veterans and it is a fact that many vets suffer from PTSD, the reality is that there are different forms of and reasons for PTSD, and it can affect almost anyone. Children can be affected, as well as someone who has either been through or witnessed a traumatic, dangerous, or unexpected event. However, not every person who experiences trauma develops PTSD; each person responds differently. There is no singular determining factor as to who will or won’t develop PTSD, but there are certain categories and types that most sufferers fall into.

Girl upset.

Singular Traumatic Event

A large percentage of the population has experienced a singular traumatic event in their lifetime—over half. Someone who experiences only one event has a lesser chance of developing PTSD; however, it can still present itself over time. Certain people with a tendency for stress, anxiety, or worry are more susceptible to PTSD, but ultimately doctors can’t determine in advance whether someone will develop it or not. Sometimes PTSD symptoms may not surface until many months or even years later, since each person’s brain works differently and can be affected by certain triggers. Often, a person can experience a trauma and never develop PTSD, but it is entirely normal for someone to react to going through or witnessing a trauma and one must not feel weak or overly sensitive for developing PTSD. Examples of singular events that often cause PTSD are car accidents, deaths, rape or sexual assault, physical attacks or bodily harm, and situations where a person’s life may be in danger.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Ongoing Traumas

A person who experiences ongoing or multiple traumas is more susceptible to developing PTSD overall, which makes sense due to repeated or extended intense experiences. When a person is consistently exposed to stress and trauma, such as prolonged war, forms of abuse, or dangerous situations, the resulting PTSD can even turn into Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD). CTSD can present all the same signs and symptoms of PTSD, but the difference is that CTSD sufferers are more likely to have additional health problems and must focus more on coping mechanisms than alleviating symptoms. Of course, soldiers in combat will often experience ongoing situations of endangerment, violence, and death, which is why it is common for them to develop both PTSD and CTSD after returning from war.  

PTSD symptoms can manifest themselves in unexpected situations in relation to ongoing trauma in the sense that a person may not realize he or she is developing PTSD because it cannot necessarily be traced back to a singular event. However, domestic physical or emotional abuse can trigger a form of PTSD in addition to anxiety or depression, so one must look at symptoms from all points of view in order to receive proper treatment.

Children

When discussing PTSD, one may tend to forget about the fact that children can develop it just as often as adults. While symptoms of PTSD may manifest themselves a bit differently in children than adults and depending on the child’s age, the diagnosis and treatment are generally the same. When looking out for symptoms in a child, one must remember that smaller children may not even know or process what they have witnessed or been a part of, but signs will come out in various ways, such as nightmares, trouble sleeping, or acting out the trauma during playtime. Children may also respond differently based on the trauma experienced, so one must pay special attention and even write down symptoms and occurrences, if possible. Older children, such as adolescents and teenagers, will respond more like adults, sometimes developing anxiety, depression, or flashbacks. Regardless, children will likely be on edge or irritable and feel sad, perhaps even forgetting or attempting to forget the traumatic event in order to avoid the related fear and stress.  

Conclusion

Millions of people across the country and around the globe suffer from PTSD, and it can affect anyone who has experienced traumatic events or situation. Unfortunately, our world is plagued with violence and problems, so it isn’t likely that PTSD will disappear from our lives anytime soon. We must find ways to cope and do anything we can to help; those who have experienced it can provide support for others, whether it be recommending a therapist, recognizing signs in a friend or family member, or simply being there for someone to talk to and help them deal with and process things. One never knows when providing a listening ear may help someone and give them the confidence they need to seek treatment and begin the road to recovery.  

What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a condition in which a person relives a traumatic experience or event from the past, with triggers often causing flashbacks and memories associated with the event that can lead to depression, anxiety, or other problems. Like most mental health conditions, PTSD affects many and is not something that disappears overnight. Traumatic events are so common in the U.S. today that millions have suffered from some form of PTSD in their lives; but sufferers should know that they are not alone and that there is hope for recovery. People from all walks of life can be affected, but with proper treatment, symptoms can diminish and possibly even disappear over time. Let’s take a look at some PTSD facts.  

PTSD

Who is Affected by PTSD

PTSD is most commonly talked about and associated with those who have been involved in war, because the events that soldiers experience are often prolonged, intense, and consistently life-threatening. Despite the fact that soldiers have been trained for combat, the human brain responds differently to the actual experience of trauma and its aftereffects, and certain people develop PTSD as a result. However, anyone is susceptible to developing PTSD, including someone who has been the victim of an accident, an assault, a life-threatening situation, a natural disaster, or someone who has witnessed a person’s death or any of these scenarios as well. In fact, PTSD currently affects as much as ten percent of men and fourteen percent of women in the U.S., placing it on the list of the country’s most common mental health conditions.

PTSD develops when a person is unable to recover emotionally from a traumatic event, and the more trauma a person experiences, the higher the chance he or she will develop PTSD at some point. Someone who has been a victim of ongoing traumatic experiences is likely to develop PTSD, and if an injury occurs along with the event, the chances of it developing are even more likely. Children can also be affected by PTSD, especially if they have been victims of sexual abuse or other intense circumstances. Statistics today show that over half of U.S. residents have experienced some kind of traumatic event, so it makes sense for PTSD to be such a common condition. The severity of the PTSD is dependent less upon the acuteness of the trauma and more on the instances of traumatic events a person experience in his or her lifetime, especially a child; however, a family history of anxiety, mood, or depression disorders can put you at a higher risk for developing PTSD. Those who have a tendency to panic more or dissociate have a higher probability of developing PTSD as well. Aside from those factors, doctors cannot definitively determine who will or won’t experience PTSD; the best thing they can do is to treat it if it does occur and make it better before the symptoms get worse.  

Sad, depressed and lonely woman

Ways PTSD Manifests Itself

Symptoms and signs of PTSD can be different for each sufferer, but similar to anxiety, PTSD begins with the body’s fight or flight instinct. A traumatic event can wreak emotional havoc on anyone; the difference with someone who develops PTSD is that the brain’s survival response doesn’t shut down as much or as soon as others’. As a result, when a person is reminded of the event, it sends the brain back into fight or flight and reactivates the fear, panic, or heightened awareness felt during the original event, which can turn into chronic PTSD. While it is normal for a person who has experienced trauma to have trouble sleeping, nightmares, or feel jittery for a while after the event, it cannot be considered PTSD until symptoms have been ongoing for at least a month. Sometimes, PTSD symptoms do not show up for a while after the initial event, so it is important to recognize the symptoms and attribute them to the original event.

Some of the physical and mental symptoms of PTSD may include:

  •         Trouble sleeping
  •         Feeling on edge, jittery, or irritable
  •         Flashbacks and upsetting memories
  •         Disturbing thoughts
  •         Nightmares
  •         Avoiding reminders of the event

PTSD affects children differently than adults; often, younger children will feel especially clingy with their parents, have difficulty sleeping, or act out or draw the traumatic event that they experienced. Many have nightmares or become hostile and irritable, perhaps causing trouble or avoiding certain people or situations. Some may even wet the bed or stop talking as a result of their trauma. Older children and teens tend to react more like adults do, potentially developing anxiety or depression or possibly withdrawing and avoiding reminders.

Diagnosis Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Treatments and Therapy for PTSD

While the goal of PTSD treatment differs for each individual, the focus remains the same—and that is to lessen the severity of the symptoms as much as possible, working toward alleviating them enough so that they don’t interfere with a person’s daily life. For the most part, the majority of PTSD sufferers’ symptoms will improve over time, especially if they are recognized and treated sooner rather than later. For many sufferers, treatments can help to the point of relieving the symptoms completely.

Counseling or psychotherapy and medication are the two main courses of treatment prescribed for PTSD today; both can be effective, and many doctors will prescribe a combination of the two for treatment. Several types of psychotherapy exist to help PTSD, such as trauma-focused therapy or prolonged exposure. There is no easy solution or overnight fix, but having perseverance and patience with treatment puts PTSD sufferers on the road to recovery. Before too long, symptoms and triggers will begin to lessen and the sufferer will find himself or herself able to function more easily. In the end, the sufferer will come out stronger having triumphed over PTSD and may be more able to deal with future events as a result.

Conclusion

Like depression and anxiety, PTSD is rough to live with and can be difficult to overcome. While sufferers cannot undo the trauma that caused PTSD in the first place, they need to know that there is always hope for a brighter future and that they do not suffer alone. A good support system can help you deal with trauma and its lasting effects, allowing you to move on with your life and keep PTSD and its symptoms from destroying your future. The sooner you receive treatment for PTSD, the better your odds of overcoming it faster and more fully. You may even be able to help others in the future who suffer and assist them in overcoming their own struggles.