Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder caused by extremely stressful, terrifying or distressing events. (1) PTSD symptoms include hyperarousal, which is also known as being “on edge”, as well as dealing with flashbacks and feeling emotionally numb. A person who has PTSD may also have feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. Furthermore, they may have trouble sleeping and find it difficult to concentrate. Sometimes, symptoms can be severe enough to affect everyday life. (2) With PTSD treatment methods, you might see a reduction in symptoms, making it easier to manage the trauma endured.
PTSD causes vary, and might include some of the following: (3)
- serious road accidents
- violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
- prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
- witnessing violent deaths
- military combat
- being held hostage
- terrorist attacks
- natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis
- a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition
- an unexpected severe injury or death of a close family member or friend (nhs)
- Furthermore, genetics also seem to be play a role in PTSD. For example, a family history of mental illness can make some people more prone to develop PTSD than others. (4)
To help manage symptoms of PTSD, here are 5 PTSD treatment methods:
1. Therapy & Counseling
Therapy, specifically talk therapy, can help people overcome PTSD symptoms. At first, many patients experience increased distress during therapy. However, as they become accustomed to discussing traumatic events, patients often see an improvement in severity of symptoms. In fact, one study found that participants who talked about trauma in therapy sessions lead to an 86 percent of improvement in symptoms of PTSD. (5)
A therapist may train a client to better access their emotions that have been cut off. They will also help them increase self-awareness, regain control over their life, and learn coping strategies.
2. Desensitization & Exposure to Fears
Another type of PSTD treatment is desensitization. This can be rough, as it involves, essentially, facing your fears directly. It’s also called exposure therapy, and it involves gradually facing situations, objects or locations that bring up strong feelings of the traumatic event in question. It might involve imagining, writing, drawing, or visiting the place where the trauma occurred. (6)
Other forms of therapy related to desensitization include cognitive restructuring, which involves discussing the bad memories in order to address the feelings attached. There is also eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, which entails having the patient focus their attention on physical movement or sensations, such as breath, sound, or hand movements, while discussing the trauma. This gives them something to ground them while addressing traumatic events and feelings. (7)
3. Yoga & Meditation
Research shows that yoga and other mind-body practices are effective PTSD treatment methods. Yoga increases “happy” neurotransmitters, which reduces the effect of stress. It’s also an effective coping mechanism to deal with symptoms of PTSD, as it can have a positive impact on the nervous system. (8)
Mindful meditation can also be an effect treatment method for PTSD. Neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change itself based on repetition and focused attention, can help reduce fear in the brain. Furthermore, it can help with regulating emotions. (9)
4. Social & Family Support
Close relationships and social support can also be an imperative part of a PTSD treatment plan. Healthy social connections can help reduce aggression as well as give one a sense of purpose. They can also help a patient build resilience, which is essential in managing PTSD.
Consider the following social networks:
- Join a support group
- Visit a family therapist, as this can help improve relationships with family and friends
- Finding a spiritual or faith-based support group. They can offer encouragement, as well as hope and positive feedback.
5. Self-Care & Stress Management
Self-care, including reducing stress and anxiety in your life, is paramount for managing PTSD.
As part of a PTSD treatment plan, try some of these stress-reducing activities:
- Engage in mild but regular exercise, or a fun group sport
- Be sure you get enough sleep and down time
- Be patient with yourself. It can take a while to start feeling better.
- Don’t take on too much at once, even at work.
- Get outdoors and spend more time in nature.
- Educate yourself on PTSD through various mediums, such as websites, books, webinars, professionals, etc.