The PTSD Treatment Myth Busted: PTSD Treatment DOES Work
PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is often associated with military veterans returning from war, police officers in the line of duty, or others who experience and witness horrible things as part of their career path. While these individuals are often significantly impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone at any age. People can develop post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing traumatic events in their community, witnessing a traumatic event involving a loved one, being the victim of a traumatic event such as assault, or being involved in an accident where a friend or loved one loses their life.
No matter one’s age or demographic, recovery from trauma can be slow and difficult. Unfortunately, like many mental health conditions, treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder is not universal. What works well for one person may not have any impact or even produce a negative effect on someone else. This is because we all respond to trauma differently, and the symptoms of trauma and complicated and pervasive. Traumatic experiences lead to physical, psychological, and spiritual effects-some short-term and some that last for months or years. There are potential treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder. Although there is often question about the success of treatment (again due to the unique and individual nature of treatment success), PTSD treatment does work.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Explained
When someone experiences a traumatic event, the brain experiences functional and physical changes. Vital parts of the brain, including the adrenal systems, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland, all shift into overdrive to prepare you to run or defend yourself. This is known as the “fight or flight” response. Other body systems react to the event as well. Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes rapid, and your muscles tense up. You may feel a sense of panic, and your short-term memory may temporarily go blank. Your focus is only on how to protect yourself from the event. After the event, these symptoms may come and go for a period of weeks or months, maybe longer. If your symptoms persist for at least a month, you may meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder and should consider seeking treatment at Meadowglade to help manage your symptoms. Although not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, it is believed as many as twenty percent will develop PTSD-related symptoms either immediately or shortly afterward.
What are the Treatment Options for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder has been the source of significant research with the medical and mental health communities for many years. Several therapeutic approaches and medications have shown to be effective as part of a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment program. The most beneficial include psychotherapy, neurological therapies, medications, and at-home coping skills education.
There are many models of psychotherapy. Some models, also referred to as “talk therapies,” are proven effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. The most effective models are based on cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that encourages clients to identify negative thoughts and behaviors that impact their mental health. Participants are encouraged to correct unhealthy thoughts by replacing them with positive ones that are more beneficial to their mental health.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
Cognitive processing therapy considers the very real possibility that many people cannot fully process what happened in the time immediately following the trauma. As time passes and you try to understand the situation, you may come to conclusions that are inaccurate or unhealthy. Cognitive processing therapy encourages you to identify your incorrect conclusions and change them to healthier options. Depending on your unique needs, cognitive processing therapy often occurs in around twelve sessions where you will work closely with your therapy provider to process your trauma by talking and writing about the experience.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy,
Prolonged exposure therapy is a talk therapy model similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy. Similarly, it is designed to explore and change unhealthy, negative thinking patterns that result from a traumatic experience. Prolonged exposure therapy often begins with education about symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and skills for how to calm your mind and cope when exposed to a frightening event. Once you have practiced self-calming skills, you and your therapist will create a hierarchy of fears-beginning with things you find slightly scaring and progressing into more intense fears. In some cases, the most intense fears you address during prolonged exposure therapy could be the trauma you experienced. The goal is to learn that your thoughts and memories of the event aren’t necessarily dangerous, and therefore, certain situations do not need to be avoided.
Treatments that focus on the brain and nervous system have been proven effective at restoring function and reducing the severity and intensity of symptoms. Many of the long-term symptoms of PTSD are neurological, and therefore, therapies that focus on these systems can be particularly beneficial. Two examples of neurological therapies are eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and the emotional freedom technique (tapping).
EMDR is a therapy that uses repetitive eye movements to interrupt and redirect some of the memories you have related to your trauma. After learning more about your trauma history, your treatment provider will guide you through a series of eye movements while you learn to process the memory and the feelings it leads to. With time and continued therapy, you will be able to reframe the memory in a more positive way. A 2018 study showed that EMDR has the ability to reduce many symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety, depression, fatigue, and paranoia.
Tapping, one element of the emotional freedom technique, is similar to acupressure. In a series of sessions, a trained therapist teaches you how to tap certain rhythms on your hands, head, face, and collarbones while you actively reframe your memories related to a traumatic event. Tapping is often used simultaneously with cognitive and exposure therapies. Various studies have shown EFT therapies can help reduce PTSD symptoms, including pain, depression, and anxiety.
The American Psychological Association recommends certain antidepressant medications for the treatment of PTSD-related symptoms. The most common and successful medications used for post-traumatic stress disorder treatment are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
Explore Self-Help Techniques
Outside of treatment, there are many things you can do to help reduce the intensity and severity of symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the most effective ways to process trauma and the emotional difficulties surrounding experiencing a dramatic event is by writing. Research has shown that writing about the event in several short sessions may help reduce the symptoms of PTSD in significant ways. Also, similar research has demonstrated that combining journaling with other therapies such as a treatment program at Meadowglade may help to shorten the duration of your treatment overall. It is not necessarily to write about the event specifically; however, about your life is a whole and other events that may have led to PTSD symptoms.
Self-care skills such as yoga and meditation are helpful complementary therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder. Various recent studies have shown that these relaxation techniques are beneficial additions to comprehensive therapy and medications. Yoga can help you regulate your breathing, and you better understand your changing emotions. Meditation can help to redirect your attention to the present, providing greater control over the harmful and intrusive nature of memories related to a traumatic event.
Because the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder impact each person differently, treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder must be equally as individuals. Part of the reason behind the myth that post-traumatic stress disorder treatment does not work is the simple fact that all treatments do not work for all situations. While one person may experience significant symptom reduction from cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT may produce adverse or worsening reactions in someone else. This does not mean that post-traumatic stress disorder treatments do not work. It merely means it is crucial to work with your treatment provider to design A treatment plan that meets your specific needs and goals and provides a means to address your symptoms in the way in which you are most comfortable.
Trauma can result in significant and overwhelming physical, psychological, and spiritual effects. Experiencing or witnessing trauma also has a detrimental impact on the structure and function of the brain. If the effects of trauma persist (or come and go with frequency) for more than a month or they disrupt your day-to-day functioning, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder. The effects of trauma are real and have a significant and detrimental impact on one’s quality of life. These adverse effects often continue long after the event is over.
However, with time and the right comprehensive, evidence-based treatment, you can lessen the intensity and severity of your symptoms and restore your overall physical and psychological well-being. In many programs, the gold standard for treating and addressing PTSD symptoms is psychotherapy. However, neurological therapies and supplemental medications have also proven effective as part of a treatment program. While many of these treatment elements are unlikely to be successful entirely on their own, significant symptom relief is indeed possible when used simultaneously.
If you were struggling with symptoms related to a traumatic event and are concerned about post-traumatic stress disorder, reach out to the admissions team at Meadowglade to learn more about our treatment programs. Our treatment staff is skilled in working with post-traumatic stress disorder and will help you create a treatment plan focused on your needs to help you achieve symptom recovery. If you are ready to begin your journey towards recovery from PTSD, contact us at Meadowglade today.