Taking Control Of Your Trauma: A Guide To PTSD Treatment
By Nadia Khan
Updated December 24, 2018
Reviewer Deanna Daniels, LMFT
An estimated 7.8 percent of the U.S. population will experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. 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 that are both minor and severe.
PTSD is developed after an individual witnesses or experiences a life-threatening event, whether short or prolonged, such as combat, natural disasters, car accidents and sexual assault. 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
- Approximately eight million adults experience PTSD during a given year and is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma
- Approximately 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 that will alleviate symptoms for a person with either minor or severe symptoms.
What Determines Who PTSD Can Affect?
There are many different factors that play into how PTSD affects certain people, even though it is a common psychological malady. 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:
- Previous life experience with trauma
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 increase chances of developing PTSD greatly, 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
- Daily duties/activities are now difficult to manage/complete
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
There are four main groupings of PTSD symptoms and not every person that has PTSD experiences all of them.
Reliving the Event (re-experiencing)
- Bad memories
- Nightmares/night terrors
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
- Devoid of happiness
- Constant environmental canvassing
- Anticipation of danger
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleeping difficulties
- Sudden anger
- Extreme irritability
- Easily startled
- Unhealthy/addictive behavior in
- Reckless behavior
Additional yet common symptoms of PTSD that should be noted and relayed to a qualified therapist are:
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- 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. Effective PTSD treatment has been proven to rid PTSD symptoms from individuals completely, and successful recovery is completely dependent upon researching all PTSD treatment options to find the one that suits you or your loved one best.
There are many different PTSD treatment options that qualified therapists and institutions offer people suffering from PTSD. There are two main types of PTSD treatment options for people. Combinations of therapies are also widely used since each patient requires different treatment.
Psychotherapy is the scientific way to say counseling or "talk therapy." This type of therapy requires meeting with a therapist. There are different processes for administering psychotherapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to be the most effective therapy method for treating PTSD symptoms. The two types of CBT therapy are:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
- Prolonged Exposure (PE)
CPT is a PTSD treatment plan where a qualified therapist teaches an individual 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, in turn taking control of the symptoms of PTSD.
PE 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 gives the patient control over their trauma, where now the feelings and thoughts once provoked by the symptoms of PTSD are now fully controlled by the patient.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (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.
Group therapy, inpatient therapy treatment facilities and other more "social" forms of PTSD treatment also exist to cater to the specific needs of everyone suffering from PTSD. Mental disorders are unique to those they affect, and PTSD is no different.
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 two medications used for depression that has shown to be hugely helpful when curbing PTSD symptoms. Prazosin is another medication that has been successful during the recoveries of patients with PTSD. This medication also specifically concentrates on decreasing the amount of nightmares a patient experience related to the trauma.
Per the National Center for PTSD of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
IMPORTANT: Benzodiazepines and atypical antipsychotics should generally be avoided for PTSD treatment because they do not treat the core PTSD symptoms and can be addictive.
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 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
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:
- 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
- Know that excessive drugs and alcohol will only make things worse: 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.