Unwanted thoughts or memories of the trauma are experienced repeatedly thought flashbacks, vivid memories, or nightmares.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is an anxiety-type disorder than impacts 7%-8% of the population at large and features a long-term and persistent response to having experienced or witnessed an overwhelming traumatic event. Debilitating PTSD symptoms may last for a month or more, and is characterized by recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and memories of the event, insomnia, emotional numbness, avoidance of situations, people, or places that might trigger painful reminders and emotions, jumpy or easily startled, and withdraw from friends and family, and feelings of guilt. There is a high occurrence of a co-existing substance use disorder among individuals with PTSD, as well as depressive symptoms that accompany the disorder.
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms of PTSD are generally expressed in four categories:
- Intrusive memories
In order not to trigger the distressing emotions of a past trauma, someone with PTSD will avoid any people, situations, or places that might trigger the disturbing memories. They will avoid discussing the trauma as well.
The individual will be jumpy, easily irritated, is quick to anger, easily frightened, has an exaggerated startle response, and may suffer from insomnia. Substance abuse may be used to self-medicate these anxiety symptoms.
- Negative thoughts
People suffering from PTSD may display a sense of hopelessness and negativity in their demeanor, and talk down about themselves. They may exhibit negative emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, and fear. They may struggle with relationships.
Treatment for PTSD
Mental health treatment for PTSD is available in either an outpatient or a residential setting:
- Residential programs
Appropriate for individuals who have become so impaired by the PTSD that they require more intensive interventions. Treatment includes medication, combined with psychotherapy, such as exposure therapy. In the event there is a dual diagnosis of both PTSD and a substance use disorder, an inpatient dual diagnosis rehab where a medical detox is available is an excellent option.
Outpatient mental health programs will also offer both medication and psychotherapy for treating the PTSD. The outpatient format allows the individual to continue to work and to reside at home while receiving treatment.
Treatment for a PTSD is multi-faceted. Together these interventions can make a significant improvement in the individual’s ability to resume normal daily functioning. These treatment elements include:
Individual psychotherapy sessions allow the individual to discuss the traumatic event while expressing the emotional impact of the trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to bring about perspective and relieves much of the resultant distorted thinking surrounding the event.
- Group therapy
Meeting as a small group of others with PTSD can facilitate productive peer interaction that allows each person to share their personal stories while gaining support from the group.
- Exposure therapy
The therapist will gently expose the client to situations that they have been avoiding by discussing it, using drawings, or writing about it to help the client relive the trauma in a safe and supportive setting. Over time the individual becomes desensitized to the traumatic event.
- Eye movement desensitization reprocessing
EMDR is another type of exposure therapy that involves the client following a therapist’s finger back and forth with their eyes while discussing the traumatic event.
Antidepressants have been found to help mitigate the psychological effects for some clients with trauma disorder. In some cases, a blood pressure medication called Prazosin is used off-label to treat PTSD.
- Exercise and Healthy Diet
The emotional and mental health benefits of regular cardio exercise are well established. Adopting a routine for regular workouts, walks, hiking, cycling, running or any physical activity that raises heart rate and releases endorphins can help mitigate the symptoms of PTSD. A healthy diet that is rich in proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains will also benefit brain health.
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