PTSD treatment can help individuals who have gone through a traumatic experience properly access their trauma and learn how to cope and respond to situations in the future.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Military combat, car crashes, natural disasters, and sexual assault are a few of the various traumatic events that can result in PTSD.
Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
While the majority of people who experience a traumatic event take time to cope and recover, individuals with PTSD can experience months or years of disrupted daily life. The condition can make it difficult to work, maintain relationships, and enjoy a sense of safety. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about six out of 100 Americans will experience clinical PTSD during their life.
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD often start within a month of a traumatic experience but sometimes may not develop until years later. It’s important to look out for common symptoms of PTSD if you have experienced or seen a life-threatening or shocking event.
Typically, these symptoms are organized into four groups:
- intrusive, traumatic memories
- avoidance behavior
- mood and behavior changes
- emotional and physical reactions
Learn more about each of these symptom groups below.
Recurring memories of the traumatic event are unwanted and distressing. They can appear as sudden, realistic, and frequent flashbacks of the event. Distressing dreams or nightmares can also center around the experience. And, there can be severe emotional distress in reaction to something (a person, place, thing, or action) that reminds you of the traumatic event.
Many people with PTSD avoid thinking or speaking about the event. They can avoid locations, people, activities, and other reminders of the traumatic experience.
Mood and Behavior Changes
In mood, people diagnosed with PTSD can have a sense of hopelessness about the future with difficulty managing relationships with family and friends. Feeling detached from your loved ones and having negative thoughts about yourself or others can lower their sense of satisfaction and feelings of safety. Sometimes this can come with emotional numbness and a general lack of interest in activities the person with PTSD once enjoyed.
Emotional or Physical Reactivity
People with PTSD often report sleep problems stemming from a constant sense of danger (or guardedness against potential threats in their environment). Because of this, people with PTSD can be easily startled, reactive, and aggressive with intense outbursts in an attempt to protect themselves from traumatic reminders. This is also why many say they have difficulty concentrating for long periods during fatigue and engage in harmful behavior like excessive substance use.
Recommended Treatment Options for PTSD
Evidence-based treatment of PTSD can help you take back control of your thoughts, feelings, and reaction. A patient is typically given some type of psychotherapy, and medication is often usually part of their treatment path.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged exposure therapy (PTE) is used by mental health professionals as an effective treatment to confront triggers that remind patients of the traumatic event. PTE usually requires eight to 15 sessions up to 90 minutes. In these first few sessions, therapists will give strategies and instructions to ease anxiety and hypervigilance such as breathing techniques.
You will later make a list of all the things you might avoid because of the condition and trauma. Your therapist will discuss how to face them. There is even a PTE approach using virtual reality programs to help you safely simulate an event and respond differently to memories and reminders over time.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) lasts for a limited amount of structured sessions. At the start of cognitive therapy, you discuss traumatic events with a therapist and how thoughts around it have impacted their life.
The “talk therapy” process helps you reflect on trauma and find new ways to promote your health. Psychotherapy can make you aware of negative attitudes and thoughts so that challenging situations resolve easier as you learn.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has you concentrate on trauma while watching or listening to flashing lights or sounds. The therapist guides you to form more helpful ideas about the event as you reflect. The process of EMDR usually involves three months of weekly sessions.
Several medications relieve PTSD symptoms. A health care professional can work with you to choose the right medication for your experience and response. Communicate any side effects or other problems while taking the medication.
Two of the most common types of medication used to treat PTSD include:
- Antidepressants. These medications, usually selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline help to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety disorder. Antidepressants are also known in clinical trials to help with sleep issues as well as improve overall concentration. Both are common PTSD symptoms.
- Anti-anxiety medications. These medications can assist in managing severe anxiety and other similar problems. This type of medication is typically only used for a short period because of its addictive capacity.
What You Can Do
If you, a family member, or a loved one experience symptoms of PTSD after a traumatic event, it’s important to contact a professional that can give you a PTSD diagnosis and prepare your treatment plan.
In diagnosis, your doctor may perform a physical exam to check for medical problems that could be causing your symptoms. They will also conduct a psychological evaluation, which is a discussion about your signs, symptoms, and trauma.
Indiana Center for Recovery Can Help
Indiana Center for Recovery offers a complete range of mental health care services, interventions, and personal treatment programs for mental illness and substance abuse. Your chance of successful long-term recovery is better with personalized care. We offer services such as CBT treatments and dual diagnosis programs that can help assess, treat, and manage your condition.