Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after a person has gone through a traumatic event, and it typically has four main types of symptoms that can include intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.
In general, there are four main groups of PTSD symptoms:
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
Recurring and involuntary memories of the traumatic event
Continually reliving the event in question
Nightmares regarding said event
- Severe anxiety or other negative thoughts, feelings (some who experience PTSD feel guilty, shameful, etc.), or physical reactions (increased heart rate, etc.) when exposed to a reminder of the traumatic experience
Symptoms of avoidance can include the following:
Avoiding all places, people, or situations which may remind one of the traumatic event
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event
Negative Changes In Mood
Negative mood changes may include the following:
Despair or hopelessness about the future
Negative thoughts or feelings about oneself; low self-esteem
Repressed memories regarding the traumatic experience
Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Feelings of emotional numbness
Impaired ability to experience joy
Changes In Physical And Emotional Reactions
Changes in physical and emotional reactions can include:
Being easily frightened (“jumpy”)
Persistent vigilance against danger and potential threats
Reckless and self-destructive behavior, such as driving too fast or engaging in the abuse of illicit drugs and other substances
Issues with sleep or getting enough rest
Difficulty eating or adhering to a healthy diet
Irritability and hair-trigger temper
Feelings of guilt or shame regarding the traumatic event
If you are struggling with substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Therapy Options For PTSD
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A therapist practicing a form of psychotherapy like CBT may methodically break down the causes of the client's emotions and help them to fully understand that experiencing the trauma was not their fault and that there is no need to feel guilt or shame regarding those events. Much like those participating in other forms of therapy, CBT patients may learn to evaluate their thoughts and feelings and replace the negative with the positive. This part of CBT can help reduce the anxiety and depression associated with traumatic events. This type of treatment is mostly used by the therapist for complex post traumatic stress disorder.
Stress Inoculation Training
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
People with PTSD may avoid situations, activities, and thoughts that remind them of a dangerous or fearful life event or the traumatic experience that happened, which can prevent them from living their life to the fullest and negatively affect them in other ways.
Prolonged exposure therapy, or repeatedly discussing a traumatic event with a mental health professional, can gradually decrease the intensity of the feelings associated with it and make them seem less overwhelming.
The method utilized in prolonged exposure therapy is typically called gradual exposure. This process may not be easy, but it can offer a road to eventual recovery.
This PTSD treatment can even be useful for those who experienced trauma long before they were able to verbalize or truly understand what was happening. Among treatment methods for processing or reprocessing, EMDR is often considered especially useful for those who have a hard time talking about their traumatic experiences.
During EMDR therapy, the patient usually relives triggering experiences while the therapist directs their attention using guided eye movements.
The back-and-forth movement of the eyes can mimic the processing response our brains go through during REM sleep and may allow the client to be exposed to the trauma or thoughts without having a strong psychological reaction. Over time, this may allow them to process traumatic memories, lessening the impact that the memories or thoughts once had.
EMDR can improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly those related to intrusive memories and avoidance, and decrease negative feelings associated with the traumatic event.
Present-centered therapy (PCT) is typically a time-limited PTSD treatment that usually focuses on helping patients understand and identify the PTSD symptoms that may affect their ability to function. Treatment with PCT may involve homework for patients; for example, patients may be asked to complete problem-solving and coping skills problems, which have the potential to help them gain control over their condition.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) can be similar to CBT in that they both normally focus on helping patients transform their thought patterns from negative to positive. But, where CBT tends to be broadly applicable as a treatment for many conditions, CPT tends to be exclusively focused on post-traumatic stress disorder.
Finding Help For PTSD Online
If you’re considering treatment for PTSD, online therapy can be a reachable and convenient option. If you have difficulty leaving your home or live in a remote area, online therapy may offer options you might not have otherwise had. Online therapy also tends to be more affordable than traditional therapy.
As we mentioned above, CBT can be a common therapy for PTSD. It tends to also be one of the most well-studied therapy options for treating PTSD online. U.S. Veterans Affairs has studied whether online CBT can be as effective as traditional in-person therapy. One recent study looked at 132 veterans and found that delivering CBT online can be as good as conducting therapy in person.
PTSD can have a variety of challenging symptoms, potentially including avoidance, negative changes in mood, intrusive memories, and changes in emotional and physical reactions. There can be many therapy approaches that may effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder, including present-centered therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, stress inoculation training, cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and cognitive processing therapy. A doctor may also prescribe medication to treat PTSD symptoms. Please don’t hesitate to get the professional support you deserve by seeking out a therapist in your local area or connecting with a licensed mental health professional online.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Type Of Therapy Is Best For PTSD?
Does Counseling Help With PTSD?
Will PTSD Ever Go Away?
Post-traumatic stress disorder may improve or go away with effective treatments. This can happen in a few weeks, or it may take years for a person to feel like themselves again. This condition can affect people in different ways, where they may experience negative thoughts, anxiety, stress, unhelpful beliefs, and feelings of guilt, which can all interfere with their daily lives. It can take multiple treatments from a doctor or therapist to feel like they can take back their life again.
What Happens If PTSD Is Left Untreated?
How Long Does PTSD Take To Heal?
What Is The Gold Standard Treatment For PTSD?
When it comes to treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, one of the most effective types of treatment is usually therapy. The therapy normally focuses on traumatic experiences so a patient can work through the events that have occurred and may have caused them trauma, grief, and other negative feelings.
What Happens At PTSD Counselling?
In post-traumatic stress disorder counseling, the mental health professional may take different approaches with you depending on your unique symptoms. If your goal is to learn to cope with flashbacks, you might work together to find safe visualization exercises you can use for your post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms at home. If you’re struggling with sleep problems, you might address the themes of your post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nightmares and work through their causes. To learn more about what happens in mental health treatment for PTSD, you can check out the Center for PTSD for resources.
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