What is PTSD and can it be treated?
PTSD is in the news a good amount now. More and more people are being diagnosed with this. Yet so many clients who come to me with this diagnosis do not understand it. They are not given basic education on what it is, the treatment or prognosis. Many are fearful of these four letters – PTSD.
Some folks have been told there is no effective treatment for PTSD. Some folks have been told they will never really get better, but can only manage symptoms. This is appalling to me, as it is not true. It is also cruel. People need hope if they are going to be willing to engage in treatment.
First let’s define those four letters. PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It can be created in people when they are exposed to actual or threat of death, serious injury or sexual violence. It is most common in survivors who were victims/eyewitnesses, but one can develop the symptoms after hearing about the tragic death of someone close to them. Professionals who see or hear about trauma from patients or clients (medical folk, EMTs, firefighters, therapist) can also become traumatized vicariously, or second hand, and suffer from PTSD symptoms.
There are a number of intrusive symptoms that must be present for a diagnosis. Intrusive memories, dreams, flashbacks are examples. Survivors thus generally avoid people/places/things that trigger distress. There are “negative alterations in cognitions (beliefs) and mood”.
There is a change in arousal and reactivity. This can manifest in things such as irritability, reckless behavior, hyper-vigilance, exaggerated startle response, problems with concentration and sleep problems.
All of these various symptoms need to be going on for more than one month. They need to cause clinically significant disruption to the person and their life. And these symptoms cannot be better explained by substance use/abuse or some other medical condition.
So, anyone reading this feel like they are reading about themselves?
If so, there is great hope! This is SO TREATABLE! And let me explain why I see it this way.
PTSD is a blocked healing process. Look again at the list of symptoms. They are all your mind, body and soul saying, “this is bad, this thing that happened, and we gotta get it out!” So, your mind keeps bringing it up because it knows it is toxic. The problem is most folks don’t have effective tools to actually fully release it from their system. So it keeps recycling. And thus causes more stress, distress and even trauma.
Effective treatment for trauma MUST include the body. SO many trauma symptoms are held in the physical body. Traditional talk therapy methods may not access this. One very effective method to treat trauma is EMDR. I use this a lot in therapy. EFT can also work well for trauma. Exposure therapies can be effective but the drop out rate is high (due to homework requirements and the emotional difficulty of the therapy.) I find EMDR with some EFT is the most compassionate way to work thru trauma. With good resource building along the way!
I had my own EMDR on a near death experience as a child and the shift and resulting resolution was remarkable to me. I went on to process other distressing events. I can honestly say those past events have no emotional effect on me anymore. And have not for years now.
Trauma may be defining you right now. It may have defined you for years. It does not have to keep defining you. It can get neutralized. That is the purpose of treatment and processing. Sadly no one can make you forget that a bad thing happened. But that bad thing does NOT need to be popping up in your face every day! And you don’t need to be blaming yourself for things you probably had little to no control over. That needs to go.
Healing can happen. You can get stronger. You can move on in life. You do not have to remain stuck. But you need a safe place/person to work with and you need effective tools. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t found those yet. Or maybe you have had some healing. That is good. Keep going for more, until it is truly neutral. You deserve that. You deserve not to suffer any longer. You have suffered long enough.