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.
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.
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.
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.