How To Treat PTSD And Regain Your Mental Well-Being

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

After going through or witnessing a traumatic situation or event, you may start to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can be stressful, disorienting and troubling, particularly when you don’t know where to turn for support.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD can help you recognize when it’s time to seek treatment. Over time, you can work toward empowerment and validation in your experiences, whatever that looks like in your current season. Read on to learn more.

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Symptoms of PTSD don’t have to limit you

PTSD: What is it?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is generally known as a mental health disorder that can develop in individuals who have experienced traumatic events. Unlike others who experience trauma and only experience fear and stress during and immediately following the event, those living with PTSD can continue to feel this fear and stress long after the initial event has occurred. Others may also experience delayed onset PTSD.

Overcoming PTSD: How to treat PTSD

Below, we’ve listed several strategies that can help those living with the condition to overcome related symptoms: 

Medication

Medications (such as antidepressants) may be given to individuals during PTSD treatment who need to control symptoms like sadness, hopelessness and anger. Sleep medications or other medications for PTSD that tackle specific symptoms listed above may also be prescribed if they help the individual cope more effectively with the disorder. 

These medications can be used alongside therapy to help people living with PTSD experience less severity of their symptoms while recovering.

Therapy

One of the most common forms of therapy for PTSD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This can be defined as a type of talk therapy that can be used to help you develop more awareness of your symptoms, and to help you to identify the root of them. 

CBT can also teach you how to challenge inaccurate thoughts and develop coping mechanisms that can help you cope 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 develop coping mechanisms that can be useful when these thoughts arise. 

Counseling and medication are two major treatment methods that can help you work through the symptoms of PTSD and overcome the disorder itself, and that are generally best overseen by a skilled physician. However, there are also changes that you can make on your own that may decrease the impact of PTSD symptoms.

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How you can reduce the impact of trauma (on your own) 

PTSD treatment doesn’t normally involve medication and therapy on an exclusive basis. Lifestyle changes can also be helpful for those looking to address their symptoms. These can include: 

  • Finding support. Creating a support network of personal and professional relationships can allow you to receive help as you navigate treatment—possibly boosting your quality of life in the meantime. 
  • Building confidence. While this can look different for everyone, it generally involves trusting yourself and the choices that you make following trauma.
  • Remaining positive. Looking for the positives and learning from the trauma you have to experience can provide more meaning to the events, and can offer you emotional respite in some cases. 
  • Practicing resilience. It can be helpful to learn how to respond and act despite being faced with fear. 

Additional health-aligned lifestyle changes can 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 smaller ones
  • 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 (such as yoga, breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation).

PTSD can cause significant stress in your life. However, living with this disorder does not mean that you cannot achieve a more peaceful lifestyle. Restoring your quality of life may involve a number of tactics, and you may need to try varied and different strategies until you find what works for you. It can be possible to move forward in healthy ways with the right tools and support. 

Exploring symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Psychiatrists generally adhere to specific guidelines regarding what constitutes PTSD in order to arrive at a formal diagnosis. Some of these requirements listed in the DSM-V can be divided into four categories of symptoms:

  1. Physical symptoms:  These symptoms may be brought on by triggers and include experiencing flashbacks, sweating, heart palpitations, having nightmares associated with the incident or having frightening thoughts.
  2. Avoidance symptoms: These symptoms can cause the individual to avoid any triggers that remind them 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.
  3. Reactivity and arousal symptoms: Arousal and reactivity symptoms can be ongoing. Symptoms like these can place great stress on the affected person. PTSD symptoms in this category can 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.
  4. Mood and cognition symptoms: Symptoms in this category can include experiences such as difficulty remembering, losing interest in previously enjoyed activities, feeling guilt or blame, having negative feelings about the world around you or yourself and feeling detached overall.

When faced with traumatic events, it can be natural to develop symptoms in response to the situation. However, the difference between people living with PTSD and those who are having a natural reaction to trauma is that those who experience PTSD might experience symptoms months after the event occured. They can experience them to such a degree that it can impact their ability to function in their daily lives. Online therapy and other interventions can help many to find relief. 

What causes PTSD?

The causes of PTSD can vary on an individual basis. Not all people who go through certain situations will end up developing PTSD. That said, identifying possible causes can help many to feel validated in their own experiences and can flag possible situations in which someone may need help. Some causes of PTSD can include:

  • Going through dangerous events
  • Experiencing a trauma in which you have been injured
  • Sexual assault
  • Childhood trauma
  • Living in a situation that causes extreme fear and helplessness

How can online therapy support those living with PTSD? 

If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it can be helpful to confide in a therapist. Whether you’re trying to overcome a traumatic event, working through difficult emotions, or just need someone to talk to, online counseling can be an effective resource for moving forward. 

Depending on the severity of your PTSD, it may be difficult to leave the house. BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that allows you to connect with certified counselors from the comfort of your home or safe place. You can schedule sessions according to your availability and connect in a way that feels comfortable to you—whether through phone calls, video chats, or in-app messaging. 

Is online therapy effective? 

Researchers have found information that suggests that internet-based treatments for PTSD can successfully reduce associated symptoms. One study found information that indicates that online therapy facilitated a strong therapist-client relationship, and generally reduced co-morbid symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. Additionally, the study had “large effect sizes and sustained treatment effects."

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Symptoms of PTSD don’t have to limit you

Takeaway

Left untreated, the symptoms of PTSD can greatly interfere with one’s life and well-being, both physically and mentally. Several different options are thought to exist to help others find relief from PTSD, each of which may work more effectively for some more than others. Finding the right treatment plan for you can sometimes involve speaking with a professional. You can conveniently connect with a therapist using resources like BetterHelp.

Heal from trauma with compassionate support

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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