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  • Diane Roberts Stoler, EdD

There is Help for PTSD

Early intervention and appropriate treatment are essential for managing PTSD effectively.

Raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is crucial to eliminate stigma around it and support the recovery and well-being of those affected. Spreading awareness also plays a vital role in encouraging timely treatment. Early intervention and appropriate treatment are essential for managing PTSD effectively. When people are aware of the signs and symptoms, they are more likely to seek help promptly, reducing the risk of prolonged suffering and potential negative outcomes. There are many effective treatment options and resources available to help those with PTSD.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event that posed a serious threat to their life or safety. It can also occur when someone learns about the unexpected death or severe injury of a loved one. It is estimated that 8 million people in the US are living with PTSD. Many sufferers of this disorder are not getting the help they need. One of the reasons why many individuals with PTSD do not seek treatment is due to the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. Some people may feel embarrassed about their symptoms, while others may not even realize that what they experience is PTSD. Lack of awareness and understanding about mental health issues can also contribute to the underutilization of treatment resources.

PTSD Symptoms

The symptoms associated with PTSD can be distressing and may persist for months or even years after the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may feel stressed or anxious even when they are not in danger.

PTSD symptoms fall into four categories:

  • Flashbacks: Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event and nightmares, and experiencing the same bad feelings you felt when the traumatic event took place. Flashbacks are sometimes caused by a trigger.

  • Avoidance: Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.

  • Hyperarousal: Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered. Being on high alert or on guard without being in any danger.

  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings: Individuals with PTSD may develop a negative outlook on themselves, others, or the world in general. They might blame themselves for the trauma or feel a pervasive sense of guilt. They may also experience self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness, a loss of trust in others, a loss of interest in activities and hobbies, and emotional numbness.

Living With PTSD

PSTD can have a significant impact on various aspects of a person's life. Here are some specific ways in which PTSD can interfere with daily functioning:

  • School and work: PTSD symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and intrusive thoughts, can make it challenging to focus on tasks at school or work. This can result in decreased productivity, poor performance, and potential difficulties in maintaining employment or pursuing educational goals.

  • Relationships: PTSD can strain relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. People with PTSD may experience irritability, anger, emotional numbness, or a sense of detachment, which can make it difficult to connect with others. The avoidance behaviors that often accompany PTSD can also lead to social isolation and strained interpersonal interactions.

  • Everyday activities: Engaging in daily activities, such as going to the grocery store, attending social events, or participating in hobbies, can become overwhelming for individuals with PTSD. Hyperarousal symptoms, like hypervigilance or an exaggerated startle response, can make them feel constantly on edge and anxious, even in non-threatening situations. This may lead to avoidance of certain places, people, or activities, further impacting their quality of life.

  • Emotional well-being: Living with PTSD often involves experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety, and emotional distress. Individuals with PTSD may struggle with managing their emotions, leading to frequent mood swings, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, or an inability to experience positive emotions. These emotional challenges can further contribute to difficulties in daily life and overall well-being. Chronic stress associated with PTSD can have adverse effects on physical health. It can weaken the immune system, disrupt sleep patterns, increase the risk of developing cardiovascular conditions, and exacerbate other pre-existing health issues.

The good news is treatment is effective and accessible.

PTSD Treatment Options—It's Never too Late Early

Intervention is best, but effective treatments are available for PTSD, even if you have been experiencing symptoms for an extended period. With the right support and therapies, it is possible to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD and regain control over your life. Remember that you are not alone, and many resources and support systems exist to help individuals with PTSD.

Over the years, advancements have been made in understanding and treating PTSD, leading to improved therapeutic approaches. It's essential to remember that everyone responds differently to treatments, and what works for one person may not work for another. If a previous treatment did not provide the desired results, it's certainly worth considering trying again or exploring alternative treatment options.

According to the National Center for PTSD, trauma-focused therapy gives a person the a good chance of recovery. Other therapies and certain medications can also be effective.

Trauma-focused psychotherapies: Treatment that focuses on the memory of the trauma and its meaning. Thinking about a traumatic memory may initially evoke feelings of fear or discomfort. However, when done under the guidance of a trained professional, this specific form of therapy can be highly beneficial for individuals with PTSD.

This type of therapy includes cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure therapy (PE) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). By addressing and gradually confronting the traumatic memories, thoughts, and emotions associated with the trauma, individuals can begin to heal and experience relief from PTSD symptoms. Research has shown that trauma-focused therapies can lead to significant improvements in PTSD symptoms as measured by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). CAPS is considered one of the gold standard assessments for measuring the severity of PTSD. The long-term outcomes of these treatments are encouraging. A study examined individuals who had received PE or CPT and followed up with them five to ten years later. The results showed continued improvement in CAPS scores. Approximately 80 percent of the study participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

It is important to note that individual responses to treatment may vary, and these results are based on research studies. However, they do provide hope for individuals seeking effective treatment for PTSD and highlight the potential for significant and lasting results.

Medications: Certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be prescribed to help manage PTSD symptoms. They may be used in conjunction with psychotherapy or as a standalone treatment.

Other therapies and interventions: In addition to trauma-focused psychotherapies and medications, alternative or complementary approaches, such as mindfulness-based therapies, acupuncture, yoga, support groups, and art therapy may also be beneficial for some individuals in managing their PTSD symptoms. These interventions can provide additional avenues for healing and self-expression, and they can be used as adjuncts to traditional therapies.

In Summary

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional who can provide appropriate guidance and support throughout the healing journey. Working with a trained professional can provide essential support during this process. Therapists who specialize in trauma understand the complexities of PTSD can conduct a comprehensive evaluation, consider your individual circumstances, and recommend the most appropriate treatment approach for your specific needs. It may involve a combination of therapies or a tailored treatment plan.

Remember, recovery from PTSD is a process, and it can take time. It's important to have patience and be open to trying different treatments until you find what works best for you. With the right support and treatment, it is possible to find relief from PTSD symptoms and regain a sense of well-being.

Diane Roberts Stoler, EdD - Website - Book

References: Foa, E.B., Keane, T.M., Friedman, M.J., & Cohen, J.A. (Eds.). (2009). Effective treatments for PTSD, Second Edition. New York, NY: Guilford; DeAngelis, T. (2017, November 1). PTSD guideline ready for use. Monitor on Psychology, 48(10).; Resick, Patricia A: Nishith, Pallavi: Weaver, Terri L: Astin, Millie C.: Feuer, Catherine A. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 70(4), Aug 2002, 867-879. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.70.4.867


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