Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

If you have experienced or been exposed to a tragedy or traumatic event, the key is to seek support as early as possible (American Psychiatric Association, 2022b). Leaving your thoughts and emotions related to the event unaddressed can lead to persistent psychological distress. These unresolved feelings, if not given the attention they demand can develop into a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD can include, reoccurring nightmares, flashbacks, intense distress related to the traumatic event, exaggerated negative beliefs about one-self, changes in sleep and eating patterns, low mood, anxiety and unsettled relationships. The symptoms of PTSD, if left untreated, can escalate to cause problems with work performance, addiction, relationship, sleep and just being able to enjoy the simple things of life (American Psychiatric Association, 2022a). Understandably, the symptoms of PTSD can be so severe that you may find yourself unable to leave the house, affecting all the necessary and pleasurable day-to-day activities that bring joy to your life and food to the table. It is therefore vital to treat and process grief/trauma in an effective manner to not allow it to develop into something more debilitating such as actual PTSD. This being said, all hope is not lost if the trauma has reached this point. PTSD is treatable and a majority of people with PTSD that undergo treatment recover or improve and are able to return to their normal functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2022b; Bradley et al., 2005). It is estimated that 1 in 11 people will develop PTSD in their lifetime, with women being twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. Unfortunately, PTSD is also associated with depressive, bipolar, anxiety, or substance use disorders. 

When someone first thinks of PTSD, the first thought to jump to mind is often a stereotypical representation of a retired war veteran experiencing a flashback to war-related events. While this is certainly a common population and symptom related to PTSD, it is certainly not limited to this and in truth PTSD can occur after many different distressing events. The disorder can follow exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. This encompasses direct experience, witnessing, learning of a traumatic event experienced by a loved one, and repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic. It is important to note that everyone experiences unpleasant or traumatic life events at some point in time and these experiences will affect everyone differently. It is normal to have negative thoughts and emotions in response to a negative experience and remember that your response may not look the same as someone else’s. 

There is no right or wrong way to experience suffering. The first step towards healing yourself of a traumatic experience or experiences is to acknowledge the pain you’re feeling. Avoiding and ignoring feelings of sadness and despair will – unfortunately – not make your grief disappear. One common strategy used in popular PTSD-related therapies, such as cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure therapy (PE), is underpinned by the idea of processing the trauma or grief (Foa, 2011; McLean & Foa, 2022; Resick & Schnicke, 1993). Recounting the experience either by writing it down (CPT) or saying it out loud while recording (PE), can be an effective way to acknowledge your feelings and thoughts as they relate to the experience. This is a good stariting point for recovery. Reading or listening to your story can also help to get some separation from events and allow a new perspective to emerge, one that can drive you to empathise with the situation and your response to it. After all, empathy for oneself is vital in the healing process and will support your progress towards reaching your therapeutic goals (Gilbert, 2009). Beyond those initial steps, cousnelling is key for full recovery.

Though not everyone will develop PTSD following a traumatic experience, nor will everyone that does develop PTSD require therapy however, several therapies have been specifically designed to address PTSD and its related symptoms and have shown to have significant benefits for the recovery from PTSD and the longevity of such improvements (Resick et al., 2012; Vickerman and Margolin, 2009). Having someone to help guide you through the ups and downs of the healing process can be an asset to your recovery. A counsellor or psychologist can draw on their knowledge of the different therapies associated with PTSD treatment to help you strategise techniques and methods specific to you and your situation, and to recommend a course of action for your treatment going forward. Research implicates Stress Inoculation Training (SIT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) as the most prominent and effective treatments for PTSD and related symptoms, with CPT and PE have the most success in terms of reducing symptoms. Once again, though, it is important to work together with your counsellor or psychologist to design a treatment plan that works best for you. 

If you are ready to take the steps towards a more fulfilling life and resolve the trauma of past events, contact Plenish Mind Health for a private consultation.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2022a). Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed., text rev.).

American Psychiatric Association. (2022b, November). What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

Bradley, R., Greene, J., Russ, E., Dutra, L., & Westen, D. (2005). A Multidimensional Meta-Analysis of Psychotherapy for PTSD. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.214

Foa, E. B. (2011). Prolonged exposure therapy: past, present, and future. Depression and Anxiety28(12), 1043–1047. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20907

McLean, C.P., Foa, E.B. (2022). Prolonged Exposure Therapy. In: Schnyder, U., Cloitre, M. (eds) Evidence Based Treatments for Trauma-Related Psychological Disorders. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-97802-0_8

Resick, P. A., & Schnicke, M. (1993). Cognitive processing therapy for rape victims: A treatment manual (Vol. 4). Sage.

Resick, P. A., Williams, L. F., Suvak, M. K., Monson, C. M., & Gradus, J. L. (2012). Long-Term Outcomes of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Female Rape Survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology80(2), 201–210. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026602

Vickerman, K. A., & Margolin, G. (2009). Rape treatment outcome research: Empirical findings and state of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(5), 431–448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2009.04.004

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