Taking Control Of Your Trauma: A Guide To PTSD Treatment

By Nadia Khan|Updated July 13, 2022

An estimated 7.8 percent of the U.S. population will experience Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness characterized by persistent thoughts related to some traumatic event a person has experienced. These thoughts and traumatic memories often lead to debilitating anxiety and fear.

The good news is post-traumatic stress disorder can be treated.

How to treat PTSD depends on the patient as well as the type of trauma experienced, but effective treatments for PTSD established by a therapist can alleviate PTSD symptoms, both minor and severe. Most treatments involve some combination of therapy and medications.

PTSD develops after a person has a traumatic experience. This traumatic experience (usually a scary event) can be short or prolonged, and can stem from combat, natural disasters, car accidents, sexual assault, and other situations.

According to studies 60% of men and 50% of women experience a traumatic event at least once in their lives. PTSD can develop and affect anyone and is not a sign of weakness or inability to "get over" traumatic events.

According to the National Center for PTSD of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

  • Approximately 7 or 8 of every 100 people (7-8% of the U.S. population) will experience PTSD at some point in their lives
  • Nearly eight million adults experience PTSD during a given year and is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma
  • Roughly 10 of every 100 women (10%) develop PTSD at some point in their lives compared with 4 of every 100 men (4%)

Treating PTSD is the only option for a person with PTSD symptoms. If you suspect yourself, a friend, or family member to have PTSD, read on to learn more about possible treatment options.

What Determines Who PTSD Can Affect?

It's Time To Take Back Control And Manage Your PTSD

There are many different factors that play into how PTSD affects certain people, even though it is a common mental health issue.

Main factors include:

  • The length of the trauma
  • If an individual is injured during/because of the trauma
  • Specific types of traumas have a higher percentage of PTSD victims (combat/sexual assault)

Although there are certain guidelines for diagnosing an individual with PTSD, there is no definitive diagnostic procedure that determines who develops PTSD and why.

Personal factors can also play into who develops PTSD.

These factors include:

  • Age
  • Previous life experience with trauma
  • Gender

In addition, the events immediately after a person experiences trauma can play a large role in how that person copes with the trauma. Excessive stress immediately after can greatly increase chances of developing PTSD and intensive social and familial support can prevent this from happening.

Symptoms Of PTSD

Traumatic events, despite what the circumstances, can have lasting effects on those that witness or experience them. Whether it's from a tour in Iraq or a horrific car accident, PTSD can develop in anyone.

PTSD symptoms vary from patient to patient, however general symptoms include:

  • Upsetting memories (flashbacks)
  • Feeling constantly on edge
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Persistent feelings of anxiety
  • Daily duties/activities are now difficult to manage/complete
  • Sleep problems

Another PTSD symptom, survivor’s guilt, is often experienced by survivors of fatal disasters or wars. People who experience this sort of trauma may feel guilty for having survived where others did not.

Symptoms of PTSD and their severity depend wholly on the event experienced and the patient. Over time symptoms of PTSD have been proven to fade, however, if they don't or if they are persistent, researching a therapist and getting on a PTSD treatment plan is paramount if recovery is a goal.

PTSD symptoms can be persistent and fluctuate. Due to the complicated nature of PTSD and how it affects patients differently, symptoms can either creep up after a long stretch of time after the event or come and go at a whim, making establishing a firm and comprehensive PTSD treatment plan with a qualified therapist paramount.

A person that could have PTSD may experience symptoms immediately after a trauma, or they can have symptoms months or even years after the trauma has taken place. If symptoms persist longer than four weeks, cause you great distress or interfere with your basic home or work life, considering PTSD treatment options should be high on your priority list.

The Four Types Of Symptoms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are four main groupings of PTSD symptoms used to determine a PTSD diagnosis:

Reliving the Event (re-experiencing)

  • Bad memories
  • Nightmares/night terrors
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoiding Situations Reminiscent of Event
  • Avoid situations to prevent triggers
  • Avoid talking or thinking of the event whatsoever

Developing Additional Negative Thoughts/Feelings

  • Increased development of negative thoughts of yourself or others
  • Feelings of guilt or shame about trauma
  • Activities once enjoyed you now avoid
  • A heightened sense of paranoia and belief that the world is dangerous; no one can be trusted
  • Numbness
  • Devoid of happiness

Hyperarousal

  • Jitteriness
  • Constant environmental canvassing
  • Anticipation of danger
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Sudden anger
  • Extreme irritability
  • Easily startled
  • Abuse of illegal drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications
  • Reckless behavior

Miscellaneous Symptoms

Additional yet common symptoms of PTSD that should be noted and relayed to a qualified therapist are:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Employment issues
  • Relationship issues/divorce

Treating PTSD can alleviate most, if not all, PTSD symptoms over time. How to treat PTSD effectively should be discussed between you and a qualified therapist.

Additionally, it’s important to note not every person that has PTSD experiences all of these symptoms. Successful recovery is completely dependent upon researching all PTSD treatment options to find the one that suits you or your loved one best.

Treating PTSD

There are many different PTSD treatment options that qualified therapists and institutions offer people suffering from PTSD. There are two main types of treatment options for people with PTSD. Combinations of therapies are also widely used since each patient requires different treatment.

PTSD Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the scientific way to say counseling or "talk therapy." This type of therapy, as one might suppose, involves weekly sessions of talking with a mental health professional about the memories and feelings associated with a traumatic event. The patient and therapist work through the traumatic experiences together, with the idea being that talking can help people with PTSD better manage stress.

Talk therapies can take place in either 1-on-1 settings (known as individual therapy) or in the context of a larger support group. These therapies can also be used (and often are) in conjunction with various medications for PTSD.

Of all talk therapies, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to be the most effective therapy method for treating PTSD symptoms. In a typical CBT session, the therapist and person with PTSD spend time talking through any unhelpful beliefs the person may have about themselves.

Within CBT there are a few sub-types that can be used for treating PTSD:

Cognitive Processing Therapy

CPT is a PTSD treatment plan where a qualified therapist teaches a person new skills to understand how the traumatic event changed or altered their thoughts or feelings regarding the trauma. Changing how you think about the trauma can change how you feel about it, helping you better manage your PTSD symptoms.

Clinical research support for CPT in treatment of PTSD is strong, and is recommended as a frontline treatment in the Clinician’s Guide to PTSD. A meta-study found patients undergoing CPT showed significantly better treatment outcomes than those who went through placebo treatments.

Prolonged Exposure

Prolonged Exposure Therapy, also known as exposure therapy, is a method of treating PTSD where a patient is asked to talk repeatedly about their trauma until the memories that once greatly debilitated a patient no longer bear any weight. This helps the patient gain control over their trauma, where now the feelings and thoughts once provoked by the symptoms of PTSD are now fully controlled by the patient.

One study in JAMA Psychiatry found that just a few weeks of either CPT or exposure therapy were effective in treating PTSD.

Present-Centered Therapy

Present-Centered Therapy (PCT) is a type of cognitive therapy. It’s considered a non-trauma-focused treatment for PTSD.

The treatment focuses less on the past and more on the present (hence its name) than CBT. In addition, being “non-trauma-focused,” means that it doesn’t use exposure, cognitive-restructuring, or other techniques found in traditional CBT treatments.

This can help reduce patient drop-out rates seen in trauma-focused CBT treatments. However, one study found that PCT was not as effective as trauma-focused treatments in reducing PTSD symptoms.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, is a PTSD treatment plan option where sounds or movement from a qualified therapist are focused on while a patient speaks about their trauma. The exercise aids your brain when working through the trauma.

The movement-based portions of the therapy are particularly effective. During these sessions, the patient trains his eyes on something moving – the therapist’s fingers, for example. As the object moves back and forth, so do the patient’s eyes.

This back-and-forth movement, coupled with the patient talking about the disturbing events, has been found to be successful in reducing the intensity of the emotions connected to those memories. Researchers think the technique’s effectiveness is related to the back-and-forth movement eyes exhibit during REM sleep.

EMDR has strong research support for treating PTSD. One 2014 meta-analysis of 24 studies suggested it may be more effective than more traditional, trauma-focused approaches to PTSD.

Stress Inoculation Therapy

Stress Inoculation Therapy (SIT), is a type of CBT that teaches those who have experienced trauma coping techniques to help them respond effectively to events which may bring on traumatic memories. This helps them be prepared against possible future PTSD episodes.

In addition to being found to be effective in treating PTSD, studies support SIT’s use in treating other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) aims to help those who have experienced trauma break out of repetitive negative thought patterns. The idea is by changing thoughts, one can change emotions and thus alleviate PTSD symptoms, speeding recovery.

CPT is supported by both the American Psychological Association and the National Center for PTSD as a frontline treatment for the disorder.

Medications For PTSD

Medications administered by a professional have also been proven to be helpful when combating PTSD symptoms. Medications should always be thoroughly researched, and prescriptions should be given by a qualified professional to avoid adverse reactions or negative impacts of a PTSD treatment plan involving medications.

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are medications used primarily for depression. However, they can also curb PTSD symptoms.

These medications act upon the patient’s neurotransmitters’ serotonin to increase feelings of well-being and reduce anxiety.

The four medications shown to be most effective are:

  • Prazosin (Paxil)
  • Sertaline (Zoloft)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Aside from SSRI’s and SNRI’s, other medications which may be used to treat PTSD include Topirimate. According to the American Psychological Association, a review panel “reported moderate strength of evidence” for Topirmate’s effectiveness in reducing PTSD symptoms.

However, the panel also concluded it could not recommend the medication at the present time, due to the risk of side effects of greater severity than SSRI’s or SNRI’s.

Note: According to The National Center For PTSD, Benzodiazepines and atypical antipsychotics do not treat core PTSD symptoms. For this reason. In addition, these medications are addictive, and so should be avoided for PTSD treatment.

Recovering From PTSD

There is currently no cure for PTSD, however, like most mental disorders symptoms can be greatly reduced with effective treatments for PTSD administered and monitored by a qualified professional. Symptoms can be reduced to a degree where an individual can be restored to function normally during their lives.

Finding a professional therapist that can offer you the therapies and medications that work best for you and your PTSD is extremely important when taking steps to treating PTSD. Working with a healthcare professional that not only works in mental health but PTSD treatment specifically can greatly increase your chances of taking control of your trauma.

Keeping PTSD Symptoms At Bay

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment options typically only last for a specific duration, so how do you effectively keep PTSD symptoms at bay without a constant regimen of psychotherapy?

There are many steps you can take yourself to ensure you keep control over your trauma:

It's Time To Take Back Control And Manage Your PTSD

  • Connect with friends and family: Isolation can only make the feeling of being alone worse and keeping your friends and family close, no matter how awkward or wrong it might feel, will curb PTSD symptoms.
  • Relaxation: Take deep breaths, take moments to appreciate your environment or meditate.
  • Exercise: Exercising isn't just good for the body, but it is hugely beneficial to mind fitness which can greatly curb PTSD symptoms.
  • Sleep: Ensuring you're getting the appropriate amount of sleep nightly will help you keep PTSD symptoms away.
  • Know Yourself: Keep a diary, journal or notepad with your daily goals, thoughts or feelings to keep your brain on track
  • Stay Away from Drugs and Alcohol: Too much of anything is bad for you, especially excessive drugs/alcohol when you're already in a fragile state of mind.
  • Help Others: Reach out into your community and see where you can help, or connect with your neighbors to aid in daily tasks. Participating in activities that get you out of your head will help alleviate PTSD symptoms.

There are numerous different PTSD treatment options. Research is a tool that you can use to start your investigation of the perfect PTSD treatment plan for you. Websites like betterhelp.com aide patients trying to locate the perfect therapist for their PTSD needs. Connecting with the perfect professional is the beginning to overcoming PTSD and getting back to living your life, free from the bonds of bad memories or traumatic feelings.

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp

https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/treatment

http://www.ptsdunited.org/ptsd-statistics-2/

Common Questions Around PTSD Treatment:

What is the best treatment for PTSD?
What are 3 treatments for PTSD?
Can PTSD be treated or cured?
Can you heal from PTSD?
What are the 5 signs of PTSD?
How long does PTSD take to heal?
What happens if PTSD is left untreated?
How does a psychologist treat PTSD?
What is the best mood stabilizer for PTSD?
Why is PTSD so hard to treat?
Is PTSD a lifelong condition?

You Don't Have To Face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Alone.
Speak With A Licensed PTSD Therapist Today
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