Trauma & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Trauma and PTSD: After a traumatic event, it is normal to think, act, and feel differently than usual. Most individuals will start to feel better after a few weeks or months. However, If your symptoms last longer than a few months, are very upsetting, or disrupt your daily life, treatment may help. If thoughts, feelings, reactions about a trauma are bothering you. The only way to know for sure if you have PTSD is to talk to a qualified mental health care provider who is an expert in the assessment and treatment of trauma & PTSD. The provider will ask you about your trauma, your symptoms and any other problems you have.
There are several treatment options available. For some people, these treatments can end symptoms altogether. Other individuals find they have fewer symptoms or feel that their symptoms are less intense.
Several research trials have shown that patients with trauma or PTSD have co-occurring mental health problems (such as substance use, depression, or psychotic disorders). In some cases, symptoms of these co-occurring disorders improve with successful PTSD treatment.
Take the Self-Screen for PTSD
A screen is a brief set of questions to tell you if it is likely you might have PTSD. Below is the Primary Care PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, or the PC-PTSD-5 screen.
Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example:
• a serious accident or fire
• a physical or sexual assault or abuse
• an earthquake or flood
• a war
• seeing someone be killed or seriously injured
• having a loved one die through homicide or suicide
Have you ever experienced this kind of event? YES / NO
If no, screen total = 0. Please stop here.
If yes, please answer the questions below
In the past month, have you …
• had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to? YES / NO
• tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)? YES / NO
• been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled? YES / NO
• felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings? YES / NO
• felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused? YES / NO
If you answer “yes” to any three items (items 1 to 5 above), you should talk to a qualified mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment options.
Note: Answering “yes” to 3 or more questions on the PC-PTSD-5 does not confirm you have PTSD. Only a qualified mental health care provider trained in trauma assessment will make that determination through more detailed assessment techniques.
And, if you did not answer “yes” to 3 or more questions, then it is still possible that you have experienced trauma and will want to contact a qualified mental health care provider for further consultation.
If you have symptoms following a trauma, treatment can help – whether or not you have PTSD.
It’s common to think that your PTSD symptoms will just go away over time. But this is unlikely, especially if you’ve had symptoms for longer than a year. Here are some of the reasons why you should seek help.
Early Treatment Is Better
Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop symptoms from getting worse in the future and lead to a better quality of life for you.
It’s Never Too Late to Get PTSD Treatment
Treatment can help even if your trauma happened years ago. Treatment for PTSD has improved over the years through ongoing empirical scientific studies. If you tried treatment before and you’re still having symptoms, it’s a good idea to try again.
PTSD Symptoms Can Affect Those You Love
PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry or even violent. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your relationships.
PTSD Can Be Related to Other Health Problems
PTSD symptoms can affect physical health. For example, studies have shown a relationship between PTSD and heart trouble. By getting help for your PTSD, you could also improve your physical health.
It May Not Be PTSD
Having some symptoms of PTSD does not always mean you have PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are also symptoms of other mental health problems. For example, trouble concentrating or feeling less interested in things you used to enjoy can be symptoms of both depression and PTSD.
When you seek help, a qualified mental health care provider can determine whether you need treatment for PTSD, or another type of treatment.
Find the Best Treatment for You
Today, there are several treatment options for PTSD. For some people, these treatments can eliminate symptoms altogether. Other individuals find they have significantly fewer symptoms or feel that their symptoms are less intense.
How is PTSD treated?
There is no single treatment that will work for every person with PTSD. But in general, people who receive an evidence-based treatment (a treatment proven to work in multiple research studies) for PTSD show a noticeable improvement in their symptoms, and many no longer continue to experience PTSD.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
A type of trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that teaches you to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma. It involves talking with a therapist about your negative thoughts and doing writing assignments and worksheets. How does it work?
Trauma can change the way you think about yourself and the world. You may believe you are to blame for what happened or that the world is a dangerous place. These kinds of thoughts keep you stuck in your PTSD and cause you to miss out on things you used to enjoy. CPT teaches you a new way to handle these upsetting thoughts. In CPT, you will learn skills that can help you decide whether there are more helpful ways to think about your trauma. You will learn how to examine whether the facts support your thought or do not support your thought. And ultimately, you can decide whether or not it makes sense to take a new perspective.
A type of trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that teaches you how to gain control by facing your fears. It involves talking about your trauma with a therapist and doing some of the things you have avoided since the trauma. People with PTSD often try to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can help you feel better in the moment, but not in the long term. Avoiding these feelings and situations actually keeps you from recovering from PTSD. PE works by helping you face your fears. By talking about the details of the trauma and by confronting safe situations that you have been avoiding, you can decrease your PTSD symptoms and regain more control of your life.
Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
A psychotherapy that teaches you how to manage stress and anxiety. It involves learning and practicing new coping skills. By teaching you coping skills, SIT can help you find new ways to deal with PTSD symptoms. These skills can also help you manage other stressful situations or events in your life. People with PTSD are often under a lot of stress and may have a hard time coping with their symptoms. SIT teaches you skills to react differently to stressful situations and to manage your PTSD symptoms. You will consider how different situations, thoughts, and behaviors could be making it hard for you to deal with your PTSD symptoms. With your provider, you will learn how to develop more helpful ways of coping. With practice, you will become more confident in your ability to use the coping skills to manage your PTSD symptoms.
Here is a list of PTSD treatments that are under empirical scientific research across many institutions involving thousands of people
- therapy dogs
- emotional freedom techniques
- hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
- stellate ganglion block