PTSD treatments are available for anyone suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Whether it was a one time event or trauma experienced over the course of years, PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that manifests through symptoms like shock, panic attacks, insomnia and can greatly affect your quality of life.
On the anniversary of me ex husbands passing, I went for a run. I had been good for awhile. When I stepped into the crosswalk and heard screeching tires it immediately took me back to the trauma I had experienced during my divorce. I was sent into a tailspin. I started having trouble breathing. My chest began to tighten. Immediately I could hear the revving of my ex husbands truck engine and his sinister laugh as he noisily peeled away, tires screeching. My ex husband liked to remind me that even with a protective order in place I needed to remember that at any time, any place he could show up. He would drop the kids off at his apartment after pick up and then go get groceries, sometimes going past my house or through the neighborhood and revving his engine behind me to scare me if I was out walking or running the dog before peeling off. He wanted me to know that he could get close to me.
I slowed to a walk and came to my senses a little. Looking around I noticed that the car tires had screeched because the light had turned red and a car across the way had to come to a quick stop. But it was surprising how fast my body responded and immediately sent me back to years ago.
PTSD Treatment Goals
There are several goals for PTSD therapy which are to:
- Improve the symptoms you are experiencing
- Teach you coping skills cope with the PTSD
- Help self worth and self esteem
Why is PTSD Treatment Important?
There are many reasons to treat PTSD. Left unchecked, it can cause issues with:
- Brain structure: In a study done after 9/11, brain area changes were noted in the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex areas of those who experienced trauma. Subsequent studies of acute and chronic trauma have shown similar findings. (Bremner, 2008)
- Biological stress: Our bodies undergo internal biological changes as well when we experience trauma. Norepinephrine and cortisol are often affected by stress. A person may also exhibit symptoms like sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, and hyperarousal.
- Long term: If left untreated, PTSD has been shown to increase the risk of serious health conditions like heart attacks, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
There are numerous treatments available and new promising ones that seem to be coming out. Please remember that this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to take the advice of your medical provider.
There are many medications available now that can help the various types of PTSD symptoms you might be experiencing. Perhaps you decide to start with therapy treatment first and no medication. Or you might require a medication that helps you sleep at night to avoid nightmares and flashbacks. There are medications available to you that you take during a crisis moment, such as when you are experience a panic attack. Other medications might even include medication you take daily to target anxiety or depression.
It’s important to talk to your provider and be honest about what you are experiencing. Taking medications doesn’t mean you are weak. If we broke our arm we would cast it. When our brains experience major traumas, sometimes our brains need to be given the same care as we would our bodies. We now have so much science showing the long and short term effects trauma has not only on our brains but our bodies too! Medications can help stop some of the negative symptoms you might be experiencing and help other therapies you might be utilizing work better.
EMDR or Eye Movement Densensitization and Reprocessing has become popular in the complimentary treatment of PTSD for awhile now. This type of therapy can be good because you aren’t necessarily having to tell your therapist about your experience. You are also breaking your traumatic experiences into smaller sections and learning to not become overwhelmed by the emotions associated with them. There are several ways EMDR therapy can help someone. Some of these ways are changing memory and the way traumatic memories are stored, teaching how to recall a difficult memory without being overwhelmed by the emotion, dealing with past trauma, dealing with current and future trauma, and helping to integrate this new thinking system into your life so you experience a more balanced lifestyle.
For many years there have been some tried and true therapies available for the treatment of PTSD.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
CPT or Cognitive Processing Therapy allows you to talk about the trauma you experienced with a trained therapist. You and your therapist then find how your thoughts and perceptions from the trauma you experienced have affected your life. Maybe your adult children are angry with you after a divorce because your ex had a chronic disease and you harbor a lot of guilt about not staying with that person. Often the therapist will have you write how you are feeling out, then work on processing the things that were in and out of your control and ultimately help you move forward in letting go of that guilt you’ve been harboring. Generally this is a more short term therapy lasting about 12 weeks of 60-90 minute long sessions.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
I can vividly remember a student I worked with who was terrified of the library at school. This students fear of the library was like none I had ever worked with. The terror in their face as they got near the library. They had an almost OCD like ritual of avoidance they would go through if they had to even pass by the library. They would focus on the square tiles on the floor and hop from tile to tile getting further and further away from the library until they passed by it and then they would hop back from tile to tile back to their line order after they passed it. It was so sad to see such a young student be so afraid of a place that for many students was such a quiet refuge. Or a fun destination with endless places to explore through reading.
What happens to our brains when we experience trauma?
When we experience trauma our brains often don’t like to remind us of that traumatic event. That can be a good thing in some ways and even a protection. And in others it can be a bad thing. Sometimes we learn to develop coping mechanisms to ignore the trauma or not face it like my student did, but like this student that can also cause problems and issues. At some point and time in this students life, they are going to have to go into a library and they are going to have to face their trauma head on.
Prolonged exposure therapy slowly breaks apart the trauma into smaller pieces. For our student we first we worked on breaking apart the ritual when passing the library. Then we worked on sitting right outside the library while the other students were inside. Then I brought a book from the library out to them to hold and read. Slowly over time we broke apart that trauma and learned to face the things that had been avoided.
Prolonged exposure therapy helps to confront those things that remind you of the traumatic event.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy has been a long term counseling method for many years. It doesn’t aim to fix you but cognitive behavioral therapy works to get you free from that tangled belief that you are broken because of your trauma and PTSD. CBT to date has also been found to be the most effective form of therapy for short and long term treamtent through counseling.
Ketamine therapy in the past few years has come up again as an alternative treatment for PTSD. Ketamine is often used as an alternative to anesthesia sedation. Because of this it carries the risk of addiction and can be extremely harmful if not administered and monitored properly.
Ketamine treatment became popular as a treatment after anti anxiety and anti depressive medications failed to work in those with PTSD. However, ketamine has been studied in the past and was found to be more helpful in treating those with depressive disorders. The jury is still out on it’s effectiveness for treating anxiety disorders, which PTSD is associated with. The studies out have not proven to be as clearly defined–some studies claim ketamine is effective, and others say for long term treatment it has not been but seems to work well if used in the psychiatric setting for short durations.
If you are experiencing trauma and needing help, please contact your local healthcare provider. This article was not intended to treat or diagnose and is for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of the treatment.