Struggling With PTSD? Therapy Can Help
By: Samantha Dewitt
Updated March 08, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
Have you been diagnosed with PTSD and now you're trying to figure out what to do about it? Maybe you've been living and struggling with it for years and only finally have a name to put to it. Maybe it's something that you just started experiencing. Maybe you're not even sure the name you've been given is right, or maybe you haven't been given a name yet, but you think you know what it is. PTSD can be extremely debilitating, but generally not all the time. You may have great times and terrible times mixed in together. You may have several different symptoms or very few. PTSD affects different people in different ways.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a very serious condition that can have extremely serious side effects. At one time it was used only to describe the after-effects for soldiers, coming back from war, but we've since determined that there are several ways that someone could develop PTSD. Those who have experienced any type of traumatic event, whether traumatic to the world or traumatic only to them, could experience it. Even more, it doesn't discriminate by age, ethnicity, culture, nationality or gender. Anyone could be diagnosed, though it tends to occur twice as frequently in women than men.
When we talk about PTSD, we're not just talking about the sadness, the anger or the grief or the myriad other emotions that can come about after something difficult or traumatic occurs in your life. PTSD is a very severe form of these feelings, and it causes intense and disturbing feelings or thoughts related to the situation that they have experienced. It could result in extreme feelings of sadness, anger or fear. It could cause them to pull away from friends or family, and it could result in flashbacks that occur spontaneously. An individual may have extreme reactions to things that cause them to think about the incident again or even people that remind them of the situation.
Getting Help For PTSD
When it comes to getting help for PTSD, it's important to understand that, no matter what others may think of your trauma, it's very important to you. Situations that can cause PTSD are as varied as the individuals who suffer from it and that means it's crucial that you find a therapist or mental health professional that will be understanding about your experience. It could be difficult, depending on the situation that you've been through, especially if others don't understand just how much that situation could affect you.
Finding the right person means taking the time to research your options. It means looking at the therapists available and the methods of treatment that they use. There are several different types of therapy for PTSD, and you want to make sure that the one you're getting is in line with your comfort level and your overall ability to listen and follow along. Therapy isn't going to help you if you're not willing to put in the effort for it. That can make it more difficult for some who are looking for a cure-all pill or a magic way to start feeling better.
Know too that there is nothing wrong with getting help for PTSD. Especially in the soldiers who were more traditionally diagnosed with PTSD it could be difficult to get help. It may have seemed like a weakness to say that you were mentally struggling with a difficult situation. But there is nothing wrong with saying that you need help. Getting mental help could save your life and even if you aren't experiencing suicidal thoughts it can greatly improve the quality of your life. That's going to be worth trying to work through your feelings about therapy all on its own.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
This is the most common method that's used to treat PTSD. It means that you're going to focus primarily on whatever event or situation caused the PTSD in the first place, which can make it difficult for some. In this type of therapy, it's important to pay attention to all the thoughts and feelings related to the trauma and to change the way that you think and behave about it. Skills are taught that are designed to make it easier for you to react positively when symptoms arise again. Those skills are practiced both within the therapy sessions and outside of sessions, entirely on your own. There are several subsets here including exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring, both to make you less affected by triggers.
When it comes to facing your fears, no type of therapy 's more involved than this one. With this type of therapy, you go through a range of different steps that allow you to experience the fear again and again and change the way that you respond to it. Imagery, writing or even visiting the location can help to put you in that place while also keeping you in a safe zone. Virtual reality is another method used for locations that can't be visited or to simulate situations. Becoming more and more introduced to the topic can result in less and less sensitivity, but gradually.
With this type of therapy, you work on understanding the memories associated with the trauma. It means looking at the reality of the situation rather than just letting your thoughts or your beliefs about the incident color what you think. It's about focusing on the facts and trying to restructure exactly what happened. This gives a bit more realistic idea of the event and takes away some of the disjointed aspects of the trauma and therefore some of the power that it has. This can help you to relieve some of the negative associations with the trauma.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
This type of therapy focuses on you and your thoughts and feelings toward yourself rather than the trauma. It looks at how your thoughts and feelings and opinions of yourself changed after the trauma but also the way that you view others and the way you view the world and how these changed after the trauma. With this type of therapy, the goal is to look at how these thoughts and feelings may be inaccurate and to learn how to recognize fact-based thoughts versus non-fact-based thoughts and how to react appropriately to either one. This also helps to create more effective and efficient methods of thinking about a specific trauma.
The idea behind this type of therapy is that avoiding triggers can result in even more problems in the long term. Instead, being exposed to those triggers and learning how to desensitize can help with long term effects. In this type of therapy, you would use imagery to repeatedly experience the trauma and situations related to the trauma over and over. This allows the individual to focus on the specific facts and to slowly work on how to feel less of the trauma each time that it is experienced again.
Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing
Here you're going to look at the trauma, but you're going to learn how to change your thought process about it. For example, you may be asked to listen to a specific sound and to focus on that sound while you're trying to remember the trauma that you experienced. The same thing can be done with movements as well, watching a specific movement while thinking about the trauma. In this way, it's possible to relieve some of the trauma associated with the memory and to teach the brain to process the thoughts differently.
Stress Inoculation Training
Here you will learn about different ways to deal with the stress that comes about when the trauma confronts you. This type of therapy teaches breathing, muscle relaxation, assertiveness and more. In each of these, you'll learn how to recognize a trigger and react quickly and efficiently to it. You'll learn how to focus on something else and to allow your body to de-stress and decelerate from the trigger and what it might bring out in you. This method can be applied to any source of stress in your life as well, and when used in conjunction with other therapies this one can be even more effective.
If you are suffering from PTSD, the best thing you can do is reach out for help. You do not need to suffer anymore, and you don't deserve to be feeling the way you are. Your trauma is a part of you, but it doesn't need to be a major part. It can be a part that lives in the background and no longer interferes with your life. It's not going to be easy, but with the right mental health professional to help you along it is possible. Find out more about speaking with a mental health professional by checking out BetterHelp.
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