How To Treat PTSD And Regain Your Mental Well-Being
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Debra Halseth, LCSW
While PTSD symptoms may be stressful, disorienting, and troubling, people with PTSD can receive treatment for their disorder and lead a life that is less impacted by the symptoms. If you have PTSD and are looking to experience relief from your symptoms, let’s learn more about mental illness and how to treat PTSD so that you can regain your life and your mental well-being.
PTSD: What Is It?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that develops in individuals who have experienced traumatic events that have left a strong impression on their psyche. Unlike others who experience trauma and only experience fear and stress during and immediately following the event, those dealing with PTSD continue to feel this fear and stress long after the initial event has occurred. The severity of your case will depend upon your individual experience, and the symptoms stemming from it, which we will cover more in the next section.
What Are The Symptoms Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
While Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will have varying lengths and degrees of severity, there are specific guidelines around what constitutes PTSD. In order to have PTSD, you must have symptoms for at least one month and have symptoms in the following categories.
- Re-experiencing Symptoms: Re-experiencing symptoms are symptoms that cause the victim to re-experience the traumatic event at the root of the PTSD. These symptoms may be brought on by triggers and include dealing with flashbacks (along with physical PTSD symptoms like sweating and heart palpitations), having nightmares associated with the incident, or having frightening thoughts.
- Avoidance Symptoms: Aptly named, avoidance symptoms may cause the individual to avoid any triggers that remind an individual about the traumatic event, to the point that it affects their daily life. Examples of avoidance symptoms include avoiding thoughts, feelings, objects, people, places, or other things that remind the victim about the incident.
- Reactivity And Arousal Symptoms: Arousal and reactivity symptoms are typically ongoing, unlike feelings that are triggered by reminders. Due to this, these symptoms can place great stress on the affected person. These PTSD symptoms include experiencing anger or irritability that causes you to lash out at others, feeling tense more often than not, having issues sleeping, and being easily startled by things.
- Mood And Cognition Symptoms: Trauma causes both physical and mental symptoms, which is what falls into this category. People with PTSD will often experience mood and cognition symptoms such as having issues remembering major parts of the trauma, losing interest in previously enjoyed activities, feeling guilt or blame stemming from the incident, or having negative feelings about the world around you or yourself, and feeling detached.
When faced with traumatic events, it can be natural to develop the symptoms in response to the situation. However, the difference between people with PTSD and those who are having a natural reaction to trauma is that those with PTSD will often experience symptoms months after the event has taken place, and will often experience the symptoms to such a degree that it impacts their ability to function in their daily lives. Additionally, some people may experience PTSD for around six months, while others may experience for one year or longer. PTSD may also be accompanied by mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as substance abuse disorders.
Although PTSD symptoms can be severe, they are treatable, which is good news for people with PTSD who are looking to experience relief from the symptoms described above.
What Causes PTSD?
Another major question for people with PTSD is, what causes it? The truth is that this varies from person to person, and not all people who go through certain situations end up dealing with PTSD. That said, some causes of PTSD include:
- Going through dangerous events
- Dealing with a trauma in which you have been injured
- Sexual assault
- Childhood trauma
- Dealing with a situation that causes extreme fear and feelings of helplessness
You might be at further risk if you had no support after a traumatic event, if you had to deal with additional stress on top of coping with trauma, or if you already have a history of mental illness or substance abuse disorders.
Now that you have a better understanding of what PTSD is and how you are being affected by it let’s learn more about what PTSD treatment looks like and how people with PTSD can recover from this impactful disorder.
Overcoming PTSD: How To Treat PTSD
Because PTSD can have such a major impact on the lives of those who have experienced trauma, treatment may often be more involved than it is for other mental health disorders. Let’s take a look at how people with PTSD can receive treatment for their symptoms.
Medications like antidepressants may be given to individuals during PTSD treatment who need to better control depressive symptoms like sadness, anxiety, and anger. Sleep medications or other medications that tackle specific symptoms listed above may also be prescribed if they help the individual better cope with the disorder. These medications are often used alongside therapy to help people with PTSD lessen the severity of their symptoms while recovering from and learning how to better control the psychological symptoms of the disorder.
Because not everyone who develops PTSD will end up sharing the same experience, the type of therapy involved will vary from person to person. One of the most used forms of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is essentially a type of talk therapy used to help you develop more awareness around your symptoms and the root of them. CBT then teaches you to challenge these thoughts and develop coping mechanisms that will help you deal with these thoughts when they arise. You may also go through therapies that help you face the traumatic event so that you can overcome the fear and anxiety that accompany the incident. It’s important to note that therapy happens at your pace – your therapist is there to help you heal, not to cause even more harm.
It’s recommended to do a little research before scheduling an appointment. Licensed counselors generally have their licensing information and expertise written in their website bios. Keep an eye out for licensed counselors who have experience in treating PTSD.
However, not everyone has access to traditional, in-person counseling nearby, and not everyone has the time to drive to an appointment during the day. This is where online therapy platforms offer solutions. For example, BetterHelp is an online counseling resource that allows you to connect with certified counselors from the comfort and privacy of your home. Whether you don’t currently have any counselors near you who can help you with your PTSD, or have a busy schedule that needs a flexible form of counseling, BetterHelp counselors are ready to connect with you today.
Counseling and medication are two major treatment methods that can help you work through the symptoms of PTSD and overcome the disorder itself. However, there are also chances that you can make on your own that may decrease the impact of PTSD symptoms.
How You Can Reduce The Impact Of Trauma
PTSD treatment doesn’t just involve medication and therapy. For people looking at how to treat PTSD, some basic actions on their end can make a major difference in their overall mood and chances of recovery. Some of these actions include:
- Creating a support network of personal and professional relationships that will allow you to receive help as you navigate treatment
- Trusting yourself and the choices that you make following trauma
- Looking for the positives and learning from the trauma that you have gone through
- Learning how to respond and act despite being faced with fear
As it is with most mental health disorders, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make that will make PTSD treatment a little bit more manageable for you. These changes include:
- Exercising regularly
- Getting enough sleep (and getting the help that you need to prevent any nightmares, so your sleep is restful)
- Spending time with loved ones
- Setting goals for yourself and breaking up large tasks into more doable tasks
- Seeking out situations and activities that are relaxing and enjoyable
- Engaging in exercises designed to help you develop more awareness around the self and relax when you become too stressed (yoga, breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation)
PTSD, as noted above, can cause significant stress in your life. However, having this disorder does not mean that you cannot return to a more peaceful lifestyle that you knew before. If you are looking for how to treat PTSD and return to the quality of life and mental health that you once knew, use the information provided above to learn more about your disorder. Remember, there are steps you can take today to begin reducing your PTSD symptoms. No matter what you’ve experienced, it is possible to move forward in healthy ways – all you need are the right tools.