Introduction to PTSD
Luckily, for some people, when they encounter vehicular accidents, the death of someone special, or abuse, they are strong and resilient enough to overcome these traumatic events. Unfortunately, for some – especially those who have suffered from violence from combat or war – these individuals become overwhelmed and their lives are affected with their trauma forever.
When someone you know is diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, you wish only that he or she can be immediately attended to by a mental health professional. Individuals who are afflicted by this distressing illness struggle to live normal lives one day at a time. Often, when they recall the trauma that they experienced, they become different. They are sometimes attacked by the traumatic event suddenly, or in parts – slowly but equally devastating. They lose their ability to be resilient and they become so afraid when they think about what they went through.
“PTSD is a response to trauma that can make individuals feel scared, hopeless, or horrified for at least one month following the trauma.” Rob Cole, LMHC said
As posttraumatic stress disorder cannot be cured, therapies for this illness are meant to manage its symptoms and help the individual function as normally as possible. The essential therapies that a mental health professional can utilize are psychotherapy, medications and a combination of both. Let us discuss the types of psychotherapy that are proven effective in helping the PTSD individual overcome his triggers and successfully cope with the illness for life.
- Psychotherapy. Simply put, psychotherapy or talk therapy is a method that utilizes personal interaction where the therapist guides the patient into opening up and discussing the traumatic event/events that he has experienced. These interactions are focused on resolving the patient’s negative emotions and the ill effects of their trauma. The most commonly used psychotherapy techniques are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Proven to be the most effective form of psychotherapy, CBT involves understanding and pinpointing behavior patterns and teaching coping skills that the patient can practice outside of the scheduled treatments. Here, the patient is encouraged to face his fears and try doing things that he avoided since the trauma happened. The therapist attempts to change the patient’s negative thoughts and develop a fresh and positive perspective on things.
“CBT is a relatively brief, skills-focused treatment that has been shown to be effective for a wide variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, anger, social skills deficits, and relational problems.” Shelby Harris, PsyD, CBSM said.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This modality attempts to change the patient’s negative emotions and thoughts by exposing him to the memories of the traumatic event/s while instructing him to also focus on a stream of lights or a group of sounds and assessing his eye movements. If successful, the negative thought ‘it was my fault’ changes to ‘I did my best.’ The outcomes of EMDR trials have been very effective for the past 15 years.
Exposure Therapy. Intervention through exposure of the patient to the traumatic event by journaling, teaching mental imagery, and encouraging him to visit to places that remind him of the traumatic event. This technique is used in part by the desensitization method, which aims to help the patient get used to the trauma and the feelings that have arisen due to the trauma. Later on, the patient becomes less sensitive and is able to cope with the fears that grew in him after the fateful event/s.
Most individuals who suffer from PTSD are recommended to take medications to keep the symptoms under control. The more commonly used are antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. When used appropriately, these meds can also help ease their sleep and concentration problems. Patients, however, are not allowed to take medications for PTSD without a written prescription from their doctor.
There are other treatments suggested for the management of PTSD, some of which have not yet been proven to be definitely effective for the majority of patients. However, it may work for some, so the best option would be to discuss these matters with a physician. Nevertheless, the option for treatment should always be considered, as it is the only way for the individual with PTSD to help him regain his life. Remember, “Making the decision to enter into treatment requires a commitment to prioritize your mental health and make some significant life changes.” Catherine “Katie” Ness, MA, LCPC said