In the previous post, “Introduction to PTSD – Part 1: Definition, Causes, Diagnosis,” we discussed what PTSD is, what causes it, and how it is diagnosed.
Comparatively, in this post, we will look more closely at the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. We will also share treatment strategies as well as options for long-term management of PTSD.
Before we begin, remember that PTSD is a mental health condition caused by trauma.
Trauma can be a single event or a series of events. Furthermore, there are many different types of trauma. In fact, even witnessing a traumatic event can trigger PTSD.
As an introduction to PTSD symptoms, we will be looking at four basic categories. Typically, the range of symptoms due to experiencing a traumatic event fall within one of these categories.
The person may re-experience the traumatic event in a number of ways. For example, they may have flashbacks, in which it feels as though they are currently experiencing the trauma again.
On the other hand, they could re-experience the trauma through nightmares, memories, or intrusive thoughts.
Furthermore, they may have physical or psychological reactions to trauma triggers. For example, this can happen when the anniversary date of a trauma comes around.
It is only natural to want to avoid re-experiencing the trauma. In fact, people often want to avoid thinking about it all together.
For example, they may avoid:
- Experiencing feelings by going numb
- Seeing people that trigger reminders
- Being in specific places or situations that act as reminders of the trauma
3. Negative Moods and Thinking
People with PTSD may experience a decline in mood and an increase in negative thinking.
- Hopelessness about the world
- Low self-esteem, negative thoughts about oneself
- Feelings of shame and self-blame
- Strong feelings of depression and anxiety
- Problems with memory
- Lack of interest in activities enjoyed before the trauma
- The feeling of disconnection from other people
4. Increased Arousal
When a person experiences trauma, their body can go into “fight-or-flight” mode. In fact, symptoms of this kind can stay with them in the form of increased arousal.
Specific symptoms that fall into this category include:
- Exaggerated startle response (being “jumpy”)
- Inability to concentrate
PTSD Treatment Strategies
Obviously an introduction to PTSD would not be comprehensive without the assurance that there is help for people with PTSD.
In fact, therapy offers methods to help reduce – and in many cases completely resolve- symptoms over time. Moreover, it helps with understanding what’s going on, practicing self-compassion, and regaining a sense of empowerment.
People with PTSD want to work with a therapist trained and experienced in assessment and treatment of their symptoms using evidence-based trauma-informed techniques. The most important part of the therapeutic process is establishing safety.
Therapists use a variety of techniques to help create safety. This is in part to avoid re-triggering the trauma or flooding the individual. Only after establishing safety can the therapy proceed.
At that point, patients may review their memories, reframe the narrative in an empowering way, and practice skills for moving forward in life.
Techniques Used in PTSD Treatment
Some of the treatment options that can help with PTSD symptoms include:
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
- Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Skills-based Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) techniques
- Relaxation, breathing, and grounding techniques
- Somatic (body-based) therapy
- PTSD group therapy
Long-Term Management of PTSD
People in treatment for PTSD may experience quick relief of some symptoms. However, in many cases, PTSD requires long-term management. In fact, significant recovery can take months or even years.
For this reason, it is important to supplement trauma therapy with a holistic approach to a balanced, healthy lifestyle. In some cases, based on the specific types of symptoms experienced, medication use may be recommended as an adjunct to psychotherapy. A comprehensive approach to PTSD treatment may involve making changes to nutrition, exercise, sleep hygiene, work-life balance, and relationships.
This is all in an effort to support ongoing, long-lasting improvement.
Hopefully, this two-part introduction to PTSD has provided you with helpful information to get your search started. Unfortunately, trauma is not rare. But trauma treatment can help. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact us.