PTSD: The Road Toward TreatmentJune is PTSD Awareness Month – a month to spread awareness about this prevalent disorder and bring light to effective treatment opportunities that people can access in order to manage their condition and cope with their experiences in a healthy manner. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating anxiety disorder that affects many Americans every year. According to PTSDUnited, a non-profit organization for sufferers of the condition, more than 70% of Americans will experience or witness some type of terrifying event in their lifetime than classifies as traumatic. However, only 20% of those individuals will or have already developed signs of PTSD.
SymptomsSymptoms of PTSD are broken down into three categories:
- Re-experiencing symptoms: These symptoms may be disruptive to an individual’s everyday life. They may lose sleep due to nightmares and frequently experience flashbacks in which they are reliving the horrible event all over again.
- Avoidance symptoms: These may be the most obvious signs of someone who is suffering from this anxiety disorder. Avoidance is demonstrated when the person stays away from people, places, or things that make them remember what happened. They may stay at home more than usual. Some sufferers even have “survivor’s guilt”, in which they feel guilt or depression about having lived when others died.
- Hyperarousal symptoms: A person may be intensely startled and become angry or afraid when others sneak up behind them. They seem to be tightly wound up and “on edge”. They have difficulty sleeping and relaxing.
TreatmentYou are probably wondering how such a severe anxiety disorder like PTSD is treated.
- Cognitive therapy, which typically falls under the umbrella of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), helps sufferers of PTSD identify unhealthy thought patterns and beliefs that are influencing their symptoms. A therapist helps the individual target different thoughts about the traumatic event and view them from a different, more adaptive perspective.
- Exposure therapy focuses on reliving parts of the event in a safe environment. Gradually, the individual will share more details and feelings about the event and become more comfortable talking about it. This process is called desensitization, because the individual learns to no longer feel as sensitive or fearful of the memories.
- Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR is believed to weaken the negative response an individual has with memories of the traumatic event by using the patient’s eye movements.
- Stress inoculation training is often used to modify the way individuals look at and respond to stressful events.
- Pharmacological treatments for PTSD generally fall in the area of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These antidepressant medications help individuals who are suffering with PTSD worry less and reduce sad or hopeless feelings.
The Bottom LineIt is important to know that you are never alone when you are experiencing the aftermath of a traumatic event. Although it may feel like no one can understand what you went through, family, friends, and therapists are here to support you and provide you with the resources necessary to manage your condition. If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD and would like to talk to a medical professional about the treatment options available, contact us today. The Mental Health Center at Destination Hope is committed to providing world-class treatment to all patients and guide them toward a happier, healthier life.
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