Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as a reaction to an extremely stressful event such as being a victim of violence, witnessing violence, combat, or any other extreme situation that caused the person to fear for their life or safety. PTSD affects more than eight million Americans and can cause significant co-morbidities such as depression, anxiety, and an increased risk for substance abuse and suicide.
PTSD treatments have improved as doctors and scientists have learned more about the disorder. Your doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist will work closely with you to develop a treatment customized to your needs, and they will monitor your progress.
Seeking help for PTSD
If you suspect you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or if you have mental health issues, talk openly to your doctor. Your doctor can then decide what type of help or referral is most beneficial for you to get the help you need.
There are resources available to put you in touch with someone who is experienced in treating PTSD. The following is a list of resources you can utilize to find the help you need.
- Talk to your family doctor
- Talk to your OB/GYN
- If you are seeing a mental health counselor, be honest about the full extent of your symptoms and how you are coping. If you do not have a counselor, but need one, contact the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) at 1-800-950-NAMI.
- Reach out to a social worker
- Utilize a community mental health clinic
- Join a support group
- If you are a veteran, you can call the Veterans Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255, and someone can help you locate a mental health facility near you.
Developing a treatment plan for PTSD
If you are diagnosed with PTSD, the next step is to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to facilitate your healing. Treating PTSD can be a complicated process, but if you are compliant with treatment, there is a high likelihood of success. Your doctor is likely to use a combination of techniques to help you learn to control the symptoms of PTSD. Common approaches include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)—The primary goals of CBT are to change negative thought patterns and help you identify your triggers. Cognitive-behavioral treatment usually consists of two parts when treating PTSD. You will have Processing Therapy, where you talk about the traumatic event. Your therapist will help you recognize negative thinking patterns and help you realize why you reacted to the event the way you did.
After, or in conjunction with Processing Therapy, you might undergo Prolonged Exposure Therapy. In this therapy, you will identify people, places, or things you have been avoiding since developing PTSD. Your therapist will seek to help you develop coping skills such as deep breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques to reduce your anxiety when confronting things you have avoided. Over time, exposure to the things you have avoided will help you come to terms with what happened and reduce the impact PTSD has on your life.
- Medication—several classes of medicine have been found helpful in reducing the symptoms of PTSD. When used in conjunction with therapy, medication can help you start to regain control of your distorted thinking patterns caused by the trauma. If you have PTSD, you process perceived threats differently than most people. You may have an easily triggered “fight or flight” response, flashbacks, or nightmares. Medications can help reduce these symptoms.
- Diet and exercise—taking care of yourself, mind, body, and spirit are crucial coping mechanisms for those with PTSD. Your therapist or doctor should work with you to help you establish a routine that includes a healthy diet and exercise. Exercise can also play a role in learning to disrupt your negative thought patterns.
Managing PTSD is not quick or easy, and you may have to try several different combinations of therapy, medications, and other techniques to find the proper tools to help you manage your symptoms. There might be days where you feel like you are moving backward instead of getting better, but it is all part of the healing process. Seeking help for your PTSD means that you want to regain control of your thoughts and your life, and with the right support, you will.