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PTSD Awareness Month

When someone who goes through a tragic event it is normal and understandable that for a short time they will have difficulty coping.  They often will relive this event in their dreams and are constantly reliving the painful event in their mind.  This can be positive which will help them adapt so they can move on and live their lives again.  For the vast majority of people with these symptoms will lessen to the point where they hardly ever think about it. On the other hand there are some people who can’t stop thinking about it and these thoughts become overwhelming and may lead to a PTSD disorder (10%).

PTSD Awareness Month: Effective PTSD Treatments

The two most common ways to treat PTSD are through talk therapy (psychotherapy) and psychotropic medication (pharmacotherapy).  There is definitely no cure all, however there some treatments which show great promise such as cognitive behavior therapy, called CBT.  CBT utilizes a few methods such as exposure therapy, cognitive re-structuring and cognitive re-processing.

Cognitive treatments base its therapy on the fact that both feelings and thoughts are interchangeably connected.  During cognitive therapy the patient needs to first understand their problems and then get at the root of their patterns of thinking to help control these negative thoughts.  For instance, a police officer mistakenly killed a civilian in the course of a fire fight feels extremely guilty.  With cognitive restructuring the police officer would start challenging his internal thoughts that he was the guilty party and replace this with the thought that he had no other choice and the only thing he could do under the circumstances.

A subset of CBT therapy is exposure therapy works with the belief that during a horrific event, people get terrified and avoid situations, feelings and thoughts that remind them of the original traumatic event.  Exposure therapy thus involves using the reminders of the horrific event and with the use of relaxation training, reducing the fear associated with the trauma.  People are exposed to this in a controlled and safe setting so the person can start controlling their stress and fear stemming from the traumatic event.  For instance, a survivor of a horrific natural disaster might be asked by the therapist to talk about what happened during impact repeatedly until he stops being afraid.  Usually it is best to gradually treat the problem slowly by first teaching the patient to relax and talk about other less intense anxieties and confronting those first.  Then eventually the client and therapist will move on to the more intense triggers of the PTSD symptoms.  This process is known as desensitization.

Brief psychodynamic therapy which deals with emotional problems that are caused by trauma, and it focuses specifically how it affects prior experiences.  When the patient talks with a therapist who is nonjudgmental, calm and understanding they feel much better about   and they develop techniques to better deal with their internal struggle and deal well with powerful feelings.  This therapy does a great deal to guide the sufferer to understand what specific situations in their life trigger the trauma and aggravate their PTSD.

A newer treatment which involves a mixture of cognitive, exposure therapy as well as sounds, taps and eye movements and is called EMDR.  The reason for the body movements is it redirects the mind to ease stress.  Some research has suggested that eye movements aren’t entirely necessary for EMBR to help patients with PTSD.  While there are debates about whether EMDR involves something different from cognitive desensitization processes, EMDR has proven to be effective.

For PTSD, the most common prescription medications are SSRIs.  Most people have heard of SSRIs, they include Zoloft and Prozac and have been approved by the FDA for treating PTSD.  Even though medications do work, it is widely believed that CBT therapy is more beneficial.  However many trials are still being conducted and prescription drugs work extremely well for some people.  There is additional research into creating medications that target the biological changes which take place during PTSD.  Usually, however, both talk therapy and medications combined are more effective than either alone.

Because our treatment center relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods that we are highlighting in PTSD awareness month.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from PTSD, depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of PTSD, depression or anxiety, whether it is PTSD awareness month or not, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.