Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatments
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects more than 5 million American men and women every year. Once referred to as "shell shock" because of the number of military service men and women affected in combat, this disorder can affect civilians too. PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced a particularly traumatic event including natural disasters, violent crimes, physical abuse, rape, or unexpected accidents. Symptoms include frightening flashbacks, intense nightmares, insomnia, and avoidance anything related to the incident. Effective PTSD treatment is available. It is important to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. If left untreated, PTSD effects can lead to drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, relationship problems, and eating disorders.
Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD diagnosis can be complex. In order to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, you must exhibit symptoms of PTSD for at least one month. Most diagnoses also require a precipitating event that triggered the symptoms, although sometimes it is difficult for sufferers to remember the exact event that caused the illness. In particular, events in childhood that precipitated the disorder may be especially hard to root out. It is important to find a caring health care provider who is dedicated to your best interests.
Treatments A variety of treatment options are available for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder. Your doctor may recommend a combination of therapies.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants may be prescribed in order to reduce the symptoms of depression and listlessness associated with the disorder. In particular, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are most likely to be prescribed. These medications work to improve mood by increasing the amount of serotonin, a neurochemical, in the brain. These types of medication include Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, and Zoloft. However, medication is usually only partially effective and relapse is common once medications are discontinued.
Tranquilizers: Tranquilizers are a common PTSD medication. Your health care provider may recommend tranquilizers in order to reduce your immediate anxiety. This can help improve your sleep and day-to-day functioning. Common tranquilizers include lorazepam and clonazempam. However, these drugs are highly addicting and can interfere with some types of psychotherapy. Tranquilizers too easily become a strategy that prevents you from mentally and emotionally healing from your trauma.
Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy for PTSD allows you to talk about your experiences and learn to change the way you think about them. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been shown to be the most effective type of therapeutic treatment. CBT can help you to recognize and change inaccurate thoughts about yourself and your future. Exposure therapy is the best technique for recovery; it involves overcoming your anxieties by facing them in a controlled and safe environment. You relive your fears all at once (flooding) or step-by-step (desensitization) in order to overcome them. Although this may seem frightening at first, this treatment is safe and works quickly. Supportive counseling, without facing the trauma, has also been shown to be helpful, but is not as effective as direct exposure.
Alternative Therapies Alternative therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder may help you to manage the symptoms of the illness, but have not yet been proven effective. In individual cases, these therapies may be sufficient on their own or can prove a helpful addition to other treatment regimens. Before trying any alternative treatments, speak with a licensed PTSD professional. Here are a few alternative treatments to consider:
- Massage: Gentle massage can help relax tension and promote circulation and better sleep patterns.
- Acupuncture: This ancient medical treatment involves inserting needles into specific points in the body. It is painless and helps to relax muscles.
- Art and music therapy: This treatment involves listening to relaxing music and expressing your emotions through art. It is very effective at helping you to work through difficult feelings.
- Drama therapy: This therapy allows you to reenact traumatic experiences in a safe and guided manner.
- Exercise: Just 20 minutes a day can help you relieve stress and anxiety and get your mind off of your worries.
Although it may be tempting to ignore the symptoms of PTSD, treatment is best approach. Although many people with PTSD get better on their own, up to one third of people will get worse. You owe it to yourself to learn how to live your life without fear.