POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
WHAT IS PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that people can develop after either going through, or witnessing, an experience that was life threatening such as a natural disaster, a war zone, some accident, a verbal or physical or sexual aggression of some kind.
Everyone can have difficult experiences that will affect their mood, their appetite, their sleep patterns and their overall functioning, however most of us will start to feel better after a few weeks or months. This is not the case for those of us that have PTSD. Their symptoms can last for far longer and start much later than when the traumatic event occurred.
Whether you are a man or a woman, a child or an elderly, anyone can experience PTSD.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
PTSD symptoms can begin right after the traumatic event, however sometimes those symptoms will not manifest before a few weeks, months or even years later. It is not uncommon for them to disappear and then reappear throughout the years.
Typical symptoms are:
1. Flash-backs or re-experiencing symptoms. These can come in the form of nightmares or memories that can be so intense it almost feels real and that you are going through the whole event again.
2. Experiencing an increase in negative thoughts about life and the future as a result of the traumatic event.
3. Fear of the future.
4. Feelings of guilt or shame.
5. Loss of motivation.
6. Trouble concentrating.
7. Feeling depressed.
8. Feeling anxious.
9. Easily irritable.
10. Can have anger outbursts.
11. Trouble sleeping.
12. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event and have trouble talking about the event.
13. Feeling on edge or hyperarousal.
14. Engage in self-destructive behaviors such as substance use, alcohol use or dangerous driving.
CAN WE RECOVER FROM PTSD?
Yes. With the appropriate treatment anyone with PTSD can recover. The healing process will differ from one person to another. For some people, it might take longer than for others. PTSD symptoms can decrease gradually over time in the same way that they can also disappear altogether with the right intervention.
WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDED TREATMENTS?
The typical treatment interventions will be psychotherapy and / or medication.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the most evidence-based therapy approach and the one with the best results for treatments of PTSD. Research suggests that some PTSD sufferers notice a significant reduction in their symptoms after 12 sessions. However, it is important to note that every person is different, which means that some people may not require as many sessions, whilst others may require more. This will also depend on the nature of the traumatic event as well as the personality of the sufferer in addition to many other factors that may be interconnected with the PTSD. This needs careful assessment by a trained psychologist or mental health professional.
The following are a few approaches that can be used within a cognitive behavioural therapy framework:
– Trauma-focused psychotherapy, which focuses on the memory of the traumatic event and its meaning.
-Prolonged Exposure (PE) where the person talks about their traumatic experience repeatedly until the memories are no longer carrying the same level of emotional intensity. This helps to develop a better sense of control over one’s thoughts and feelings about the trauma. The person can also confront certain situations or do certain activities that they were previously avoiding.
-Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) where the person learns skills to understand how trauma affects how a person things and feels. o Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), involves focusing on sounds or hand movements while the person talks about the traumatic event. This helps one’s brain work through the traumatic memories.
-Biofeedback is widely used to treat stress related disorders. Heart Coherence for example focuses on improving one’s heart rate variability (which is the rhythm of our heart beat). When this is achieved, studies have noticed a reduction in PTSD symptoms.
-Cognitive Hypnotherapy can also be very effective in working through core beliefs and triggers associated with traumatic events.
Medications can also be an effective combination for some people that are struggling and having a difficult time benefiting from psychotherapy alone. For instance, certain types of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), which are typically used for depression, can be particularly beneficial for decreasing PTSD symptoms. A psychiatrist will be the appropriate healthcare professional to make such decision.
The private personalized intensive CBT & mindfulness program that we offer in a beautiful and serene environment has helped many people recover from years of suffering. Commitment to one’s healing process is essential and recovery is within reach.