Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that may occur when an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that may occur when an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event such as rape, sexual violence, gang/community violence, domestic violence, tragic death, serious injury or medical condition, a natural disaster, serious accident, a terrorist act, or combat. Experiencing stress symptoms following a traumatic event does not necessarily mean development of posttraumatic stress disorder. PTSD occurs when symptoms are all encompassing, interfere with a person’s daily functioning such as ability to keep up with school/work, maintain their relationships, their activities of daily living, and the symptoms last for at least six months.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- 5- TR (DSM-5-TR) and psychiatry.org, there are four categories of PTSD symptoms.
- Intrusive symptoms including intrusive thoughts, images, and/or memories associated with the trauma, nightmares or distressing dreams associated with the trauma, and reliving the traumatic event (flashbacks).
- The second symptom category is avoidance. The individual with PTSD will avoid reminders of the trauma which may include certain people, places, activities, objects, smells, images, movies, etc. An individual may go out of their way to avoid a trauma reminder, which may further impair their ability to keep up with typical daily activities. The individual may avoid talking about the trauma or avoid seeking treatment which then, counterintuitively, worsens their PTSD symptoms .
- Changes in mood and cognition is the third type of symptom category and includes: inability to remember important aspects of the trauma, experiencing negative thoughts and feelings, distorted thoughts about themselves, others, and the world (e.g. “I am bad”, “I can’t trust anyone”, “people are dangerous”, “the world is an unsafe place”, “it’ll happen again”), wrongly self-blaming, feelings of shame or guilt, ongoing fearfulness, ongoing anger, and difficulty experiencing feelings such as joy, happiness, and calmness.
- PTSD arousal and reactivity symptoms include: irritability and being prone to angry outbursts. The individual may behave more recklessly by speeding or drinking more often. The individual may be hypervigilant in their surroundings and startle easily. They may experience trouble falling or staying asleep. PTSD can also affect a person’s concentration. The good news is, there are treatments for PTSD (Torres, 2020).
The APA strongly recommends a few therapies for PTSD based on evidenced based research and practice.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a type of therapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This therapy helps the person learn about distorted thinking and how their thoughts influence their feelings and behaviors. The therapist helps the individual to counter unhelpful thoughts to more helpful thoughts to promote a more balanced, optimistic way of thinking that can positively influence their emotions and behaviors.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy is a specific and structured type of cognitive behavioral therapy that the VA uses for combat veterans. CPT helps the person learn to change their unhelpful beliefs surrounding the traumatic event such as self-blaming. It helps them counter unhelpful beliefs to more clarifying ones which then reduces the PTSD symptoms over time.
- Cognitive Therapy. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Cognitive Therapy stems from cognitive behavioral therapy and it “entails modifying the individual’s pessimistic evaluations and memories of trauma, with the goal of interrupting the disturbing behavioral and/or thought patterns that have been interfering in the person’s daily life” (APA, 2017). CT helps the individual process their thoughts surrounding the traumatic event in order to interrupt their unhelpful thoughts and behaviors after the trauma. CT helps the individual get “unstuck” from their pattern of unhelpful thinking and behavior, which then helps to reduce their symptoms and allows them to better manage them over time.
There are also a few trauma therapies that the APA conditionally recommends.
- Narrative Exposure Therapy helps the individual develop a life story narrative so the person is able contextualize the traumatic experience as just a part of their life story and not their whole story. It focuses on rewriting their narrative, identifying strengths, and remembering positive events in their life in order to put the trauma experience in perspective.
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that includes having the patient briefly focus on the traumatic memory while the licensed therapist simultaneously conducts bilateral stimulation usually with an eye movement technique which reduces the vividness and the distressing emotions of the trauma memory.
Finally, according to the APA, there are a few medications that are conditionally recommended for the treatment of PTSD which include: sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine and venlafaxine (APA, 2017).
If you or someone you know is experiencing trauma symptoms or have been diagnosed with PTSD and are ready to seek treatment, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in trauma therapy or one of the therapies discussed above. Remember, there is hope. PTSD is treatable and there are several evidence based treatment options that have been shown to successfully treat PTSD. Healing is possible. Be sure to see a licensed therapist who is specialized and has training in trauma therapy.
PTSD Treatment with CHE
A person with PTSD might feel as if their life will never be the same again. However, PTSD can successfully be treated. At CHE, we offer specialized and effective treatment for PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.
Our online therapy programs help you address the physical and psychological symptoms associated with PTSD while providing the resources to help improve your quality of life. You deserve to heal and get back to living. Our team is here to assist when you are ready.
To learn more about PTSD and the treatments options available at CHE Behavioral Health Services, please call 888-515-3834. We are ready to talk, and ready to listen.
www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/tre... dir="ltr">Torres, Felix. “What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?” Psychiatry.org, Aug. 2020, psychiatry.org/patients-families/PTSD/What-is-ptsd.
Makenzie Pacubas, MSW, LCSW
CHE Quality Assurance Associate
Makenzie is a clinical social worker who has worked in the mental health field for over a decade and now works in clinical quality assurance with CHE Behavioral Health Services. Makenzie lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband, Justin, and their three pets. She likes music, singing, art, exercise, reading, getting outdoors, and trying new restaurants.