PTSD Hotline: When And How To Use Hotlines For PTSD Minus 38
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by declining mental health, including hyperarousal, avoidance, intrusive thoughts, and negative changes to thinking, such as depressive symptoms, helplessness, or disgust. PTSD is typically worked through and managed via therapy, whether that therapy involves talk therapy alone, or works within a larger framework of treatment angles, such as talk therapy, trauma therapy, family therapy, lifestyle changes, medication, and police intervention, if PTSD is borne of a violent event. Each of these angles can help alleviate the symptoms associated with PTSD and can help individuals with the disorder begin supporting their mental health and improve their overall quality of life.
PTSD and Mental Health: The Stress of PTSD
PTSD has a substantial impact on an individual’s mental health for numerous reasons, but perhaps one of the most difficult symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is hyperarousal or a feeling of constantly being on edge. Although PTSD itself is a significant attack on an individual’s mental health, hyperarousal is an added liability: constantly being on edge means living in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Getting stuck in your sympathetic nervous system has numerous deleterious effects on your overall health, not just your mental health. A regular, ongoing reliance on your sympathetic nervous system can lead to decreased immunity, greater strain on your heart, and compounding symptoms of anxiety. When the body is inundated with a sudden flood of stress hormones, individuals with PTSD might be transported back to the source of their trauma.
These episodes can be overwhelming. For some, PTSD flashbacks or intrusive thoughts are rare. For others, mental health deteriorates quickly, because intrusive thoughts seem to press forward in a steady, almost aggressive march. Regardless of the exact frequency of additional stress responses (mental or physical), individuals with PTSD might find themselves in a constant loop of symptoms and may feel overwhelmed. Reaching out for help is a significant, vital part of the recovery process.
Managing PTSD: Treatment Options
Managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder usually involves a more holistic approach to improving mental health, rather than using a single type of therapy. Because PTSD is both an anxiety disorder and a disorder borne of trauma, a multilayered approach to treatment is usually the most effective means of improving symptoms. Treatment might begin with talk therapy, progress into more trauma-based therapy, and integrate lifestyle changes, medication, and other interventions. Changing jobs or surroundings could even be a part of the growth and healing process if the trauma occurred while on the job or within the walls of a home. Managing PTSD is less a set course, and more an ever-evolving puzzle unique to each and every individual experiencing symptoms.
Treatment with a psychologist or psychiatrist is typically the initial route; psychologists may be able to administer talk therapy or more trauma-based therapeutic methods, such as EMDR or sound therapy. These forms of therapeutic intervention aim to improve mental health by changing the mind’s response to traumatic triggers. The exact response to trauma treatment depends on the individual in question, and some people may find talk therapy an effective enough therapy method.
Lifestyle interventions may also be recommended for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Implementing regular exercise and eating a healthy diet filled with whole, fresh foods can help ease some of the symptoms of depression and could help stabilize mood, which can soothe some PTSD symptoms and improve mental health. Consistently providing one’s body with healthy food, exercise, and adequate sleep can also help stave off feelings of discomfort or disgust with oneself or others. Although lifestyle interventions can be useful for PTSD, they are not recommended as the sole source of intervention.
PTSD Pitfalls: Substance Abuse
Individuals with PTSD may be more likely to fall victim to substance abuse. This link is usually far from nefarious; instead, some people with the disorder may turn to substances such as alcohol or narcotics in order to alleviate some of the pain and frustration associated with PTSD. One study found that substance abuse was a co-morbid condition with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in as many as 50% of patients in one treatment facility, suggesting that trauma and substance abuse may, in some cases, feed into one another.
Substance abuse in conjunction with PTSD is certainly something to be discussed with a mental health provider, as there may be parallel lines of inquiry and treatment. If substance abuse is a current or ongoing struggle for an individual with PTSD, PTSD treatment could help mitigate some of the symptoms and difficulties associated with addiction. Because many co-morbid conditions are improved when one ailment begins healing, the first step in treatment for individuals suffering from both substance abuse and PTSD is often trauma therapy, to heal some of the wounds left behind by Post Traumatic Stress. Healing these wounds could begin to break down some of the underlying causes of substance abuse and addiction, leading to improved healing and recovery.
How to Use PTSD Hotlines
Like any other type of hotline, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder hotlines are set up to help individuals with PTSD through gentle guidance, telehealth, or pointing them to more significant assistance, such as pairing someone with PTSD with a therapist to go over treatment options or providing resources for other types of PTSD, substance abuse, or anxiety issues. A PTSD hotline is not meant to take the place of sessions with a licensed therapist but is instead intended to be used as a supplementary option when the symptoms of PTSD have flared up, when questions arise, or when you are unsure of the next steps to take. Because PTSD hotlines are free to use, they can offer a resource for individuals who may not be willing or able to pay for therapy, or who are not sure how to go about beginning therapy without insurance or other monetary resources. Although hotlines do not guarantee callers a therapist, hotline workers are often familiar with resources that callers may not be able to find anywhere else.
If people are unable to leave home, hotlines provide another source of assistance, as well. Leaving home can be difficult, whether it is due to a doctor’s order, an illness, an accident, or the effects of PTSD, and hotlines provide a simple and straightforward way to receive some help without setting foot outside. Online therapy can offer a similar benefit, allowing individuals to receive therapy from qualified mental health professionals, without having to leave the comfort or safety of their homes. BetterHelp is an online therapy site designed to help people receive therapy in a medium that allows them to feel safe and comfortable.
When to Turn to PTSD Hotlines
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder hotlines are designed to help individuals with their PTSD symptoms. If, for instance, an individual with PTSD is experiencing overwhelming intrusive thoughts, and is having difficulty sleeping, a hotline may be able to help that individual calm down and employ strategies to feel safe. Hotlines are operated by mental health professionals trained to aid individuals reaching out for help and provide a safe, confidential space to call in and discuss possible treatment options, assistance options, and additional resources for people with PTSD.
If you want more information about PTSD, including symptoms, how it manifests, how it is treated, and how it occurs, a hotline may be a great source of help; PTSD hotline professionals may be able to access greater information than the average person and can provide more personalized information and assistance than a simple internet search. Although a quick Google search can certainly yield plenty of PTSD symptoms, a hotline is able to apply the information practically, and can more accurately identify whether or not some of the symptoms you or a loved one are experiencing are likely to be linked to PTSD.
PTSD hotlines can also be helpful for family members of individuals with PTSD, as they can help family and friends understand some of the symptoms associated with PTSD. This provides a significant service to both the family member and the individual with PTSD, as it provides valuable insight into the signs, symptoms, and behaviors associated with PTSD. Learning about the disorder can help loved ones better sympathize with and understand the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how vast their impact actually is.
When to Seek Other Help
If you feel that you are a danger to yourself or others, it is time to reach out to a different source of mental health help. If you have reached a point where you no longer feel safe-either for yourself, or from yourself-a hotline will not be able to provide the intensive, focused, and specific mental health care that you need. Calling 911 or contacting an inpatient program are both better options for individuals who are in need of help because they are a danger to themselves or others.
If you are in search of ongoing help, such as therapy, a hotline is not the place to call. Although it cannot function as a regular, weekly source of therapy, hotlines can point callers in the direction of other resources, including therapists who might be best able to help individuals with PTSD. Hotlines may also have access to information about financial or community resources that can help or may be able to direct callers to support groups (in person or online), to help ease some of the alienation and loneliness that can accompany Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.