It is estimated that almost three-fourths of the American population will live through a traumatic event in their lifetime, and 20 percent of those Americans will suffer from PTSD as a result. If you’re currently battling PTSD, know that you’re not alone and that there has been extensive research done to help you treat and cope with the experiences and the resulting day-to-day struggles.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatments
After living through combat, most veterans tend to prefer seclusion and keeping their thoughts and memories to themselves. However, keeping the depressed and anxious feelings to themselves can worsen PTSD and bring on other mental issues. The Department of Veterans Affairs has done extensive research and found that talking through the traumatic memories and learning to view them differently has been one of the most successful ways to alleviate PTSD. The VA has identified two kinds of therapy that are most effective for treating PTSD: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy. Research has found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most effective type of counseling for overcoming PTSD. Cognitive therapists teach patients how to pinpoint and replace panic-inducing thoughts. Service members with PTSD often reported feeling that actions during the traumatic events were results of their own mistakes. Cognitive therapy encourages more realistic viewpoints. Exposure therapists believe PTSD is simply fearing the memory of the trauma. Their goal is to teach acceptance and control rather than fear of the traumatic memories.
PTSD Medication & Other PTSD Treatments
Mental disorders like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders are results of chemical imbalances in the brain. Research has found that the most effective medications for regulating the chemicals in a PTSD-affected brain are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI’s. Common SSRI’s include Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, and Celexa. When you have PTSD, you have lower levels of a chemical called serotonin. These medicines work to regulate that level and help you cope with the depression and anxiety brought on by the trauma. Visit a therapist or doctor to determine if SSRI medication would help alleviate your PTSD.
Other treatments for PTSD haven’t been researched as thoroughly as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and SSRI medication, but ongoing research is providing promising results. Some of the treatments listed below might be helpful for healing your PTSD.
Group Therapy gives you the opportunity to talk to others who relate closely to you because they have experienced some of the same things. This method of therapy will help you feel understood and learn how others like you are coping with the memories of their trauma and living their lives after the traumatic events.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, though not as thoroughly researched as Cognitive Behavioral and Exposure Therapy, has the same aim: to teach different ways to rewire your brain by pinpointing what prompts panic, teaching ways to cope with the panic, and helping identify and increase awareness of the feelings, memories, and thoughts associated with trauma. This kind of therapy also promotes a change in reactions to the feelings of panic brought on by painful memories and increases self-esteem.
Family Therapy, as the name suggests, is for the whole family. Sometimes spouses, siblings, and children struggle to understand why you are sad, angry, defeated, and anxious. When the whole family attends therapy together, they learn how to empathize and maintain good, supportive relationships through healthy communication and emotional coping mechanisms. It is suggested that family therapy be paired with individual PTSD therapy.
Treating Multiple Mental Disorders
Therapy generally lasts 3 to 6 months if you are only treating PTSD. However, PTSD is rarely the sole mental problem faced by soldiers and veterans. Veterans with other mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, panic disorders, or drug or alcohol abuse problems can find relief as they treat all their mental health problems together as opposed to tackling the treatment of each disorder one at a time.
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