Discover how therapy can aid in coping with post-traumatic stress and learn about evidence-based treatment options for individuals who have experienced trauma.
Many people experience trauma at some point in their lives. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. These experiences can take many forms, from physical or sexual assault to military combat, natural disasters, and accidents. The aftermath of trauma can significantly impact a person's daily life, sometimes leading to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Although living with post-traumatic stress can be difficult, it’s possible to regain a sense of normalcy in one's life. With the right tools, such as therapy, medication, and self-care practices, individuals can manage their symptoms and adapt to trauma in a healthy way.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress?
Post-traumatic stress refers to the emotional and psychological response that a person may have after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. This can include symptoms such as anxiety, flashbacks, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms are a normal reaction to a distressing event and usually subside over time.
When symptoms of post-traumatic stress persist, a person can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a condition in which symptoms persist for over a month and cause significant distress in a person's daily life. These symptoms can include:
- Re-experiencing traumatic event through nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event
- Negative changes in mood, such as feeling detached, guilty, or ashamed
- Decline in mental functioning, including loss of concentration and memory
- Hypervigilance, or being easily startled or anxious
PTSD is a serious condition that can severely impair one's ability to function on a daily basis. It can affect a person’s relationships, work, and overall well-being. While not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD, it's important to recognize the signs and seek professional help when needed.
Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress
Unaddressed, post-traumatic stress and PTSD can cause significant distress and negatively impact a person's work, school, relationships, and ability to care for oneself. Talk therapy and medication are two common treatment options for trauma-related symptoms. Both treatment options aim to help individuals cope with and manage symptoms related to trauma, improving their overall well-being and ability to function in daily life.
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is a treatment option that involves talking to a trained mental health professional about one's thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Talk therapy aims to help individuals understand and process their emotions and behavior. It also helps individuals learn coping skills to manage symptoms.
The following types of talk therapy have been shown to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress and PTSD:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This technique helps individuals understand how their thoughts and beliefs about the traumatic event can impact their emotions and behavior. It can help individuals change negative thoughts and beliefs and teach coping skills to manage symptoms.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): This therapeutic method is specifically designed to help individuals process traumatic memories. It guides individuals to focus on the memory while also engaging in eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation.
Prolonged exposure therapy: This technique involves gradually confronting the traumatic memories and situations that have been avoided since the traumatic event. It helps individuals to process the trauma and learn to overcome the fear and anxiety associated with the event.
Narrative exposure therapy: This form of therapy helps individuals form a coherent narrative of the traumatic event, make sense of it, and reduce the distress it causes.
Talk therapy can be helpful in treating post-traumatic stress because it provides a safe and supportive space for individuals to talk about their experiences, feelings, and thoughts related to the traumatic event. It can also help individuals to learn coping mechanisms, such as how to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression and how to change negative thoughts and beliefs related to the trauma.
It's important to note that everyone's experience with post-traumatic stress is unique. Different treatment options may work better for some individuals than others. A mental health professional can help you find a treatment plan that is right for you.
Medication is another treatment option available for individuals with PTSD. Trauma-related symptoms can be treated with several types of medications, including:
- Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed for PTSD. They can help alleviate symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil).
- Anti-anxiety medication: Benzodiazepines are a type of anti-anxiety medication that can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. Examples include alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).
- Prazosin: Prazosin is effective in reducing the symptoms of PTSD, particularly those related to nightmares and sleep disturbances.
In most cases, medication should be used in conjunction with therapy, not as a standalone treatment. Medication can help alleviate symptoms in the short term, while therapy can help an individual learn coping mechanisms and work through the trauma in the long term.
Finding a Trauma-Informed Therapist
Finding the right therapist is a critical step in managing trauma symptoms and getting back to living a normal life. The following tips can help you find a trauma-informed therapist:
- Look for a therapist who specializes in PTSD: A therapist trained in trauma will have a deep understanding of how trauma affects an individual, both emotionally and physically. They will also be able to provide appropriate treatment to help manage the symptoms of PTSD.
- Find a therapist who offers the type of therapy that aligns with your needs: There are several different types of therapy that have been proven to be effective in treating PTSD, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and trauma-focused therapy. It is important to find a therapist who offers the type of therapy that aligns best with your needs.
- Consider the therapist's location and availability: You will have a better chance of sticking to therapy if the therapist is located in a convenient place and their appointment availability aligns with your schedule.
- Find a therapist you feel comfortable with: Selecting a therapist that you feel comfortable opening up to and who you can trust is key to a successful therapy experience.
- Ask for a referral: Ask your primary care physician or other mental health professionals for referrals to trauma-informed therapists..
- Check online reviews: Read online reviews of therapists in your area to get an idea of their reputation and effectiveness.
Finding the right therapist for trauma can be a daunting task. However, considering the therapist's experience, therapy approach, availability, and comfort level can increase your chances of finding a therapist who can help you cope with your condition and improve your overall well-being.
Self-Help Methods for Post-Traumatic Stress
While therapy and medication has shown to be very effective in treating post-traumatic stress, there are also self-help methods you can incorporate into your daily life. Some methods that may be helpful in coping with trauma include:
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with PTSD. These practices can also help you become more aware of your feelings and thoughts in the present moment, which can help you better manage them.
- Journaling: Writing about your feelings and thoughts can be a therapeutic way to process and make sense of the traumatic event. Keeping a journal or writing a letter to yourself can be a powerful tool for exploring your thoughts and feelings about the event.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help improve overall mental health and well-being. It can also be a way to release pent-up tension and anxiety.
- Connecting with others: Talking to friends, family, or a support group can help you feel less alone and provide a sense of understanding. Support groups can also provide a safe space to talk about your experiences and emotions with people who understand what you're going through.
- Self-care: Taking care of yourself is critical for managing symptoms of PTSD. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and reducing stress.
- Finding a hobby: Engaging in enjoyable activities can help distract from the trauma and improve your mood. It can also give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Everyone's experience with trauma is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Find what works best for you, and be patient with yourself. Remember that healing takes time and that it's possible to manage and reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Talk Therapy with CHE
Post-traumatic stress and PTSD can be debilitating and greatly affect a person's quality of life. Although healing takes time, trauma-related symptoms can be managed with the right support and guidance.
CHE Behavioral Health Services provides a wide range of online therapy options for people suffering from post-traumatic stress. Our experienced therapists are specially trained in treating trauma and are dedicated to helping individuals understand and manage their symptoms.
If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma, don't hesitate to reach out for support. CHE Behavioral Health Services is here to help you on your journey to healing and recovery.
For more information about post-traumatic stress and treatment options offered by CHE, please call 888-515-3834. We are ready to talk and ready to listen.