Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a very common type of anxiety disorder that might occur after a person experiences or survives a traumatic event.
Even the strongest, most resilient women have developed PTSD from both firsthand and secondhand exposure to natural disasters, sudden death or illness, car accidents, war, acts of terrorism, or sexual violence.
It’s only natural for those who experience deeply disturbing events to have difficulty returning to the status quo of their normal lives. For example, women with PTSD often report having trouble sleeping, have unwanted flashbacks to the traumatic event, have a diminished sense of self-esteem, and experience a wide range of volatile emotions that are difficult, if not impossible, to control.
Did you know that approximately 1 out of every 10 women will develop PTSD throughout their lifetime? Females are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD which could be attributed to the fact that women are more likely to be subjected to sexual assault than men.
Women are also more likely than men to blame themselves after experiencing a serious trauma. It’s incredibly important to seek treatment for your PTSD if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below.
Living with constant flashbacks and nightmares can significantly diminish your quality of life if left untreated. Furthermore, the emotional pain that people with PTSD deal with daily can cause problems at home, work, school, and interpersonal relationships.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD is not just psychological - it can also affect a person’s behavior, mood, and sleeping habits. Therefore, PTSD requires a medical diagnosis.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms regularly, you should make an appointment with your nearest mental health practitioner or psychiatrist to be professionally evaluated for PTSD.
Women experience PTSD differently than men do. For example, women typically experience symptoms of PTSD for 4 years before seeking help. That’s why it’s important to reclaim your life by getting immediate treatment for any traumatic event that has happened to you.
In the following sections, I will explain some of the most common treatment programs for PTSD, how they work, and how effective they are proven to be.
Types of Treatment for PTSD
There are three main goals of PTSD treatment: 1) to ease the symptoms associated with PTSD, 2) teach you how to manage the symptoms you experience, and 3) to help you regain your self-esteem.
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help you control or even fully eliminate symptoms that are troubling you in your everyday life. By talking through your problems, most people are able to function better and heal from their traumatic event or experience.
Psychotherapy can be provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed social workers, licensed counselors, marriage and family therapists, or psychiatric nurses.
It is vital to look for a therapist that you feel comfortable talking and working with because developing trust is critical to dealing with complex issues. Around 75% of people who enter into psychotherapy have reported emotional and behavioral benefits.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, also called CBT, focuses on the relationship between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
CBT can help reduce symptoms of PTSD by helping you identify faulty patterns of thinking such as: distorted thinking, overgeneralization, negative thoughts, or catastrophizing and replace them with more realistic and balanced thought patterns.
In doing so, those who suffer from PTSD can expose themselves to triggers or emotions previously associated with the trauma in a controlled environment. The end result is that the person with PTSD gains a sense of control, increases self-confidence, and reduces avoidant behaviors.
Cognitive processing therapy or CPT is a very specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that works well for people who have suffered child abuse, combat, rape, or natural disasters.
CPT typically occurs over the course of 12 sessions and helps patients create a new understanding of the traumatic event that happened to them. One of the first steps is learning how to identify automatic thoughts that keep you trapped with symptoms of PTSD in the first place.
Next, patients learn how to write an impact statement about why the event occurred and how this affected their personal beliefs about themselves, others, and the world in general. The patient processes their trauma by recounting the event in writing.
During the next session, the patient reads their letter aloud, and the therapist helps them process the event and modify any faulty thinking about the event that took place.
The final step in this type of treatment is to equip the patient with the necessary skills to function outside of treatment. CPT can be done individually or in group sessions.
Emotional freedom techniques, more commonly referred to as just “tapping,” helps to reduce symptoms of PTSD through acupoint stimulation.
It’s an alternative form of treatment used to restore balance to a person’s disrupted energy. It has been authorized for use in the treatment of war veterans, and it has demonstrated some benefits in the treatment of anxiety, depression, pain, and insomnia.
Tapping focuses on the meridian points of the body to restore its blocked energy flow. There are 12 major meridians in the body, but EFT focuses only on 9.
You might feel a bit hesitant to try this type of treatment. Rest assured, research has proven that EFT coaching sessions really do work!
Group Therapy has been proven to be just as helpful as individual therapy. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of group therapy is the validation that participants feel when they hear other victims struggling with the same issues that they have.
Attending group therapy is also useful for learning tried and true coping strategies or gaining a new perspective that you might never have considered on your own. Working with others in a group can also help patients practice their new coping skills and learn how to relate better with others.
Overall, group therapy can help provide you with a means of support to overcome your symptoms of PTSD. However, group therapy can also be combined with individual therapy if you believe you would benefit more from a one-on-one approach.
Medication can help people with PTSD to process what they perceive to be threats. For example, someone who has experienced a traumatic event might act jumpy or on edge because their fight or flight response has been triggered, and they are living in a state of constant hypervigilance.
Medication can help you stop thinking about what happened every minute of every day, and it can help bring back a sense of normalcy to your everyday life. Most doctors or psychiatrists will start you on an SSRI such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, or Effexor. However, due to the fact that different people respond differently to medications, the first medication you try might not be the best fit.
Depending on your symptoms, you may be prescribed an antidepressant or even an antipsychotic. For the best results, combine medication with other proven forms of treatment.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy or just PE is a more gradual approach that helps teach people with PTSD that their memories of the trauma-related event are not dangerous and don’t have to be avoided.
Patients are taught that avoiding your fears only reinforces them. Treatment is usually taken place over the course of three months. After explaining the course of treatment and getting to know the patient and the events she has been through, the therapist will commence with a combination of imaginal exposure and in vivo exposure.
During imaginal exposure, the patient describes the event in detail in the present tense. The therapist and patient then discuss the emotions raised during this activity.
The patient is recorded so that she can listen to the recording between sessions to continue processing her feelings and practice coping strategies. During in vivo exposure, the patient must confront their feared stimuli outside of therapy.
The patient and therapist work together beforehand to identify possible situations that will provide the necessary stimulus.
Prolonged exposure therapy is not only one of the most studied forms of therapy for PTSD; it also comes with the highest recommendation for use in every clinical practice guideline.
It’s completely normal to feel afraid after something traumatic, scary, or dangerous happens to you. Nearly everyone experiences a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime; it’s nothing to be ashamed of if you are experiencing this.
While some people can recover from symptoms of PTSD naturally, other survivors require treatment to return to the same quality of life that they had before the event that triggered them.
Along with the aforementioned therapies, alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, massage therapy, acupuncture, art therapy, music therapy, and animal-assisted therapy have also been demonstrated to help patients with PTSD.
For more questions, concerns, or information regarding PTSD please contact:
If you’re suffering from symptoms of PTSD, don’t wait to seek help from a licensed professional. Please remember that the sooner you begin the healing process, the happier and healthier you will be.