How do you treat PTSD?

PTSD can be treated successfully.  The sooner you seek and get effective treatment, the faster you may recover and feel better.  Although your memories won’t go away, you can learn how to manage your response to these memories and the feelings they bring up.  You can also reduce the frequency and intensity of your reactions.  There are treatment options. The following information may be of help to you in deciding how you want to begin.

Psychotherapy.  Although it may seem painful to face the trauma you went through, doing so with the help of a mental health professional can help you get better. There are different types of therapy you can ask about. If one doesn’t work for you, you can try a different one.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you change the thought patterns that keep you from overcoming your anxiety.
  • During exposure therapy, you work with a mental health professional to help you confront the memories and situations that cause your distress.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy helps you process your emotions about the traumatic event and learn how to challenge your thinking patterns.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on identifying current life situations that set off traumatic memories and worsen PTSD symptoms.
  • During Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), you think about the trauma while the therapist waves a hand or baton in front of you.  You follow the movements with your eyes.  You may wonder how something like this could help, but it has been shown to help your brain process your memories and reduce your negative feelings about the memories.
  • Couples counseling and family therapy helps couples and family members understand each other.

Medicine, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, is used to treat the symptoms of PTSD.  It lowers anxiety and depression and helps with other symptoms.  Sedatives can help with sleep problems.  Anti-anxiety medicine may also help.

Support groups. This form of therapy, led by a mental health professional, involves groups of four to 12 people with similar issues to talk about. Talking to other survivors of trauma can be a helpful step in your recovery.  You can share your thoughts to help resolve your feelings, gain confidence in coping with your memories and symptoms and find comfort in knowing you’re not alone. For a list of support groups in your area, contact your local Mental Health America organization.  Find their information here.

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