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A Guide to Therapy for PTSD

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways:

  • PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that completely disrupts everyday life.
  • Symptoms include panic attacks, flashbacks, and depression.
  • Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is the most successful treatment for PTSD.
  • Some medications can also help treat PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can occur for many reasons, making it impossible for one type of therapy to be successful for every person who suffers from it. More than one type of therapy is necessary for just a single case on many occasions. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends several psychotherapies that successfully treat PTSD in all its variations. Clinicians determine the most helpful modality based on the patient’s experience and symptoms. 

The first step in PTSD therapy is a correct diagnosis by a medical professional, which entails physical and mental evaluations based on the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) from the APA.

PTSD patients often experience insomnia, low self-esteem, flashbacks, and painful emotions. They may continually relive the event – or lose their memory of it entirely.

Regardless of the origin of your PTSD, there is an effective therapy to treat it. Living with PTSD can feel like regular life is gone forever, but it is treatable. Patients who go through trauma can learn to feel safe in their lives once more and manage stress in a healthy manner. This guide explores the fundamentals of post-traumatic stress disorder and the most valuable therapy modalities to overcome PTSD forever.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that affects those who have been through traumatic ordeals, such as witnessing a murder or unexpected death, surviving natural disasters, physical assault, and other life-changing events. It was once known as shell shock syndrome and battle fatigue because so many soldiers returning from war suffer from it.

Direct participation in a disastrous event isn’t necessary. Victims’ families often develop PTSD, as can rescue workers and emergency aid personnel. Most people who experience trauma will have reactions like shock, fear, anger, nervousness, and guilt. All these reactions are normal; for most people, they go away over time. 

These feelings continue and even increase for PTSD patients, however, and become so powerful that they stop the everyday tasks of life. Symptoms typically last longer than one month, and sufferers can’t function as well as before the triggering event. Therapy is required to alleviate the symptoms and learn how to deal with the overwhelming memories and emotions.

Treatment Modalities for PTSD

The objective of PTSD treatment is to diminish the symptoms, improve daily functioning, and help patients better manage triggering events. Treatment might involve psychotherapy, medication, or both, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, teaches patients skills and provides them with tools to cope with symptoms. It also teaches them and their loved ones about the disorder’s origins and how to work through their fears.

An assortment of talk therapy approaches can successfully treat people with PTSD, including:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): Focuses on the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in relation to current troubles. It teaches options for changing problematic behaviors. CBT notes how adjustments in one area of life can lead to positive changes in another area. 
  • Cognitive processing therapy (CPT): A type of CBT that focuses on the limiting beliefs related to the trauma, CPT teaches patients to challenge and modify harmful thoughts and beliefs to develop a new concept of current life.
  • Cognitive therapy: This modality involves adjusting the cynical assessments and recollections of trauma, intending to interrupt the harmful behavioral and thought patterns that interfere with daily life.
  • Prolonged exposure: This method teaches patients to progressively approach trauma-related memories, emotions, and situations to learn that they aren’t dangerous and don’t need to be avoided.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy: A structured therapy requiring patients to briefly focus on bad memories while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation, or rapid eye movements, associated with decreased vibrancy and emotion related to traumatic recollections.
  • Narrative exposure therapy (NET): Narrative exposure helps patients form a consistent life narrative to frame traumatic experiences. It’s used very successfully in group treatment for refugees. 

Talk therapies can occur one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting with other patients. Most people experience both sessions throughout their healing journey. Some may also use medications. 

Medication

A range of drugs can help ease the symptoms of PTSD. They are created to treat depression and anxiety, two prominent symptoms of PTSD. The most common include:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft) 
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

There are other antidepressant medications, but these four are the most effective for PTSD. Some side effects may occur with any medication. 

Following the healthcare professional’s suggested treatment plan is imperative. It can seem like a long time before you notice the benefits of therapy and medication, but treatment can be effective, so it’s important to stick with it. Most people recover, but it takes time. Following your treatment plan and regularly communicating with your healthcare professional will help you progress faster. 

Reaching out for help is the first and most crucial step in the journey to freedom from PTSD. Start by learning about PTSD and what to expect from the treatment, and understand that you have a long, difficult road ahead.

Eating healthy and getting appropriate exercise and rest significantly impact treatment efficacy, so self-care is critical. Put yourself first and give yourself the grace you need to heal. 

Getting Help for PTSD Is Easier Than You Think

PTSD symptoms can be confusing and frightening, and going through it alone makes it much worse. The Counseling Center Group™ can help you learn how to control your emotions and change your behaviors. We provide therapies for groups, couples, individuals, and families. 

The Counseling Center Group is dedicated to helping you live a life you love. We are committed to providing relatively short-term treatments to achieve positive, long-lasting results. Our therapists use structured, evidence-based methods to efficiently help you reach realistic goals. To learn more about therapy in general, contact us today. 

We Can Help.

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