PTSD Treatment

What is PTSD?

PTSD meaning post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem that some people develop after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident, natural disaster, or even sexual assault.  Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. For this reason, people who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger.  It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. However, if symptoms last more than a few months, it may be PTSD. The good news is that there is effective PTSD treatment.

Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks. Also, a person with PTSD may experience feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt. PTSD can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality, or culture, and at any age. It affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year.

PTSD Symptoms

The symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event. But sometimes they may not appear until months or years later. Consequently, they also may come and go over many years. If your symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.

There are four types of PTSD symptoms. However, they may not be the same for everyone. Everyone’s experience is different, so you may experience some, none, or all of these things.

Re-experiencing symptoms, where something reminds you of the trauma and you feel that fear again. PTSD symptoms examples include:

Flashbacks, reliving the trauma over and over. Flashbacks consist of disassociated memories of the traumatic event.

Nightmares are bad dreams that wake a person up and make them feel distressed and afraid. The nightmares are usually about a traumatic event.

Frightening thoughts. Being easily startled or frightened by things that remind you of the trauma is something that many people with PTSD experience

PTSD Treatment
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Avoidance symptoms. This is when someone tries to avoid situations that remind them of the trauma. This can include avoiding people and places. In order to get a diagnosis for PTSD, these symptoms must be present continually for at least one month after the trauma (as reported by the American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Arousal and reactivity symptoms, such as hypervigilance. Examples might include being intensely startled by stimuli that resemble the trauma, trouble sleeping, or outbursts of anger.

Cognition and mood symptoms, which are negative changes in beliefs and feelings. They include

  • Trouble remembering important things about the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about yourself or the world
  • Feeling blame and guilt
  • Trouble concentrating

Causes of PTSD

There are many different harmful or life-threatening events that might cause someone to develop PTSD. Possible causes of PTSD are as follow:

  • Stressful experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through in your life.
  • Inherited mental health risks, such as a family history of anxiety and depression.
  • Inherited features of your personality — often called your temperament.
  • The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress.

PTSD treatment programs can help alleviate symptoms and offer recovery hope.
  • Stressful experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through in your life.
  • Inherited mental health risks, such as a family history of anxiety and depression.
  • Inherited features of your personality — often called your temperament.
  • The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress.

PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma. Nevertheless, it’s not fully understood why some people develop the condition while others do not.

PTSD Treatment

PTSD cannot be cured. However, it can be treated and managed in several ways. The principal PTSD treatment modality is psychotherapy. PTSD treatment medicines are just an alternative solution. PTSD affects people differently, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. If you have PTSD, work with a professionally trained mental health clinician to find the best PTSD treatment for your symptoms. PTSD treatment modalities include:

  • Psychotherapy can teach you about your symptoms. In short, you will learn how to identify what triggers them and how to manage them.
  • Medicines can help with the symptoms of PTSD. Antidepressants may help control symptoms such as sadness, worry, anger, and feeling numb inside. Examples are paroxetine, mirtazapine, amitriptyline, and phenelzine.
  • Self-management strategies, such as self-soothing and mindfulness, are helpful to ground a person and bring her back to reality after a flashback.
  • Service animals, especially dogs, can help soothe some of the symptoms during and after PTSD treatment.

The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) [1] estimates that nearly 8% of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime. This is approximately 12 million people. Approximately 2.8 million adult Americans have been diagnosed with PTSD

Marijuana Use and PTSD Treatment

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs [2], there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. Some people use marijuana to relieve symptoms of PTSD. While several states approve the use of medical marijuana for PTSD there is limited recovery data. Controlled studies have not been conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD treatment. Thus, there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.

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PTSD Therapy

PTSD therapy helps people with PTSD to process their memories of the trauma so they can live their lives without constant fear.

PTSD treatment includes three main goals:

  • Improve your symptoms (reduce anxiety, depression)
  • Teach you skills to deal with it (coping strategies)
  • Restore self-esteem (self-compassion)

Different PTSD treatments use different techniques to accomplish these goals: group therapy, family therapy and mindfulness training through meditation. There is no one-size-fits-all PTSD treatment, but most PTSD treatment programs include some combination of these.

Family therapy helps you see the ways your PTSD symptoms impact your family – and how their PTSD symptoms affect you too. You can learn to communicate with each other in healthier ways so that everyone feels heard.

Group therapy lets you talk about PTSD feelings with others who have PTSD too. Research shows this type of PTSD treatment is more effective than individual PTSD therapy because it can help reduce feelings of isolation and shame by increasing awareness that PTSD affects many people, not just you alone. Learn new coping strategies from others who are facing similar challenges as well as gain support for changing behaviors that may be holding you back, like avoidance or drug abuse.

Mindfulness training through meditation teaches skills to help PTSD sufferers feel calmer, more in control and less overwhelmed. PTSD treatment that includes mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms such as feelings of guilt, fear and sadness.

The best PTSD treatment is the PTSD therapy you participate in willingly every week for a long enough time so that you see improvement—usually 12 to 16 sessions or longer. It takes time for PTSD therapy to work, so don’t give up after just a few sessions.

Before beginning PTSD therapy, it’s important to seek mental health professionals who specialize in PTSD treatment and can work with you individually or in a group setting.

PTSD and Co-Occuring Issues

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUDs) are prevalent and frequently co-occur. Individuals with co-occurring PTSD/Substance Use Disorder (SUD) tend to have poorer treatment outcomes than those without such comorbidity.

When drugs or alcohol are used to self-medicate PTSD symptoms, the disorder only becomes more severe. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol and opiates can worsen depression and anxiety and interfere with normal sleep patterns.

To learn more about your or a loved one’s PTSD treatment options please call our specialists 24/7. We Level Up FL Mental Health Center will be able to provide a free comprehensive PTSD treatment assessment that can help inform you of suitable therapies for your specific PTSD condition.

Sources:

[1] The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/

[2] US Department of Veterans Affairs [2] – https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/cooccurring/marijuana_ptsd_vets.asp