3 Efficient Treatments to Relieve PTSD in 2022
Trauma can leave deep, lasting wounds that scar you mentally as well as physically. You may feel isolated and alone, but you’re not. About 15 million American adults suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a year.
You may be able to find healing with the help of therapeutic treatments designed to address PTSD symptoms. These treatments can help reframe the emotions and memories surrounding the traumatic event, so you can move forward in life.
PTSD awareness starts with a solid understanding of this mental health condition. It is a response to a traumatic event. You can get PTSD not just from experiencing a trauma yourself but also from witnessing a traumatic event. This can include:
- Abuse (physical or sexual)
- A serious accident
- Natural disasters
- Near-death experience
- Prolonged exposure to extremely stressful situations, such as war
Symptoms of PTSD may start to appear within a few months of an event and can last weeks, months, or even years without treatment. Symptoms include:
- Recurrent memories, nightmares, or flashbacks to the source of the trauma
- Avoiding places or situations that serve as traumatic reminders
- Negative thoughts
- Feeling tense and on edge or easily startled
- Anger or aggression
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble focusing or concentrating
- Feeling numb, guilty, or ashamed
- An increase in risky, dangerous behavior
- Depression or anxiety symptoms, such as unfounded fear or feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts
PTSD triggers can set off or exacerbate symptoms. These triggers can be anything your mind associates with your trauma, and it can be different for each person. For instance, a sense memory may be a PTSD trigger for you, but for another person, it could be news of an event or attack similar to their traumatic event.
These symptoms can affect every area of your life. For some people, it may be difficult to hold a job or navigate the stressors of daily life. Other people may be unable to maintain their relationships with partners or other family members.
There is also an increased risk of drug or alcohol abuse with PTSD. One study notes that almost half of people with PTSD (46.4%) show signs of substance abuse. In those cases, sometimes referred to as dual diagnosis, both PTSD and substance use disorder need to be addressed during treatment.
It’s important to treat PTSD as soon as possible to develop healthy coping mechanisms, rather than turning to substance abuse or committing dangerous acts that could hurt yourself or others.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (or CBT) is a common form of talk therapy that identifies negative thought patterns, emotions, and behaviors and focuses on replacing them with positive ones.
The goal is to help patients recast their negative associations to a traumatic event and redefine themselves in a more positive way in order to develop healthy coping mechanisms and avoid catastrophizing, overgeneralizing, and other patterns that can be detrimental to a patient’s sense of self. CBT treatment takes place in either individual or group therapy sessions.
CBT is an overarching term that covers several specific treatment methods, including certain therapies that are often used for PTSD treatment:
- Cognitive processing therapy: Patients take a deep dive into the thoughts and feelings linked to their trauma and how their lives have been impacted. Counselors also teach patients the skills needed to question those beliefs and emotions and replace them with more positive associations.
- Exposure therapy or prolonged exposure therapy: Therapists help patients lessen their trauma-based fears by exposing them to their PTSD triggers or an imagined situation. The goal is to reduce anxiety with repeated exposure.
- Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) in which the way of looking at the world around us and the events that accompany it is adjusted by targeted exercises.
- Stress inoculation training: Patients learn to solve problems and cope with stress in healthy ways. These skills can include breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and cognitive restructuring to minimize negative thoughts.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can alleviate symptoms of major depressive disorder. About half of everyone with PTSD also has depression. Many symptoms of PTSD and depression overlap, including fatigue, memory problems, loss of interest in hobbies, insomnia, and feelings of shame and guilt, among others.
Patients typically try TMS after other treatments, such as talk therapy and antidepressants, haven’t produced the desired results. TMS is a non-invasive, non-sedating treatment with minimal side effects.
During a treatment session, an electromagnetic coil on the scalp transmits magnetic pulses. These pulses turn into gentle electrical currents that stimulate specific areas of the brain to reduce depression symptoms. Treatment takes place over the course of several weeks; sessions are held every weekday for the first weeks of treatment, then reduce in frequency in the final weeks.
Narrative exposure therapy (NET) aims to reframe a patient’s life story so that it doesn’t revolve around the traumatic event and, instead, places the event within the context of a patient’s life experiences. Trauma is not the whole story, just a chapter.
Therapists guide NET participants in creating a written autobiography or timeline of their lives. This is created by recalling the traumatic event in detail and then reorienting it within the large scope of the timeline. NET is a short-term treatment that has been used beneficially for PTSD and depression symptoms, particularly with people who have suffered multiple traumas, such as war refugees.
It’s hard to see someone you love struggling with PTSD symptoms. It’s helpful to know their PTSD triggers and encourage them to use their coping tools in those situations. Cultivating your own PTSD awareness gives you a better understanding of what your loved one is going through so that you can offer support. And it’s important to encourage them to seek help—many options can aid in easing the emotional and psychological burdens of PTSD.