Background and Symptoms
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder which can be developed following involvement in, or witness to traumatic events. A diagnosis of PTSD can range from mild to severe – this is based on the presenting symptoms rather than the event itself. Our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline when feeling stressed or under threat. Studies show that someone with PTSD will continue to release these hormones even when they are no longer in danger. Symptoms do not always emerge immediately after the trauma, symptoms may not appear until months or sometimes years after the event.
Common symptoms include:
- Reliving aspects of the trauma i.e. vivid flashbacks, nightmares, physical sensations (pain, sweating, nausea)
- Alertness of feeling on edge, being jumpy, irritable, disturbed sleep and difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding feelings or memories i.e. feeling ‘numb’, forgetting details of the event, substance abuse
- Difficult beliefs or feelings including lack of trust, self-blame, overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, guilt
The main treatment suggested for PTSD is trauma focussed CBT and EMDR. This treatment works by targeting the traumatic event and reprocessing it as a ‘normal’ and less stressful memory in the brain. However, there are also other treatment options available if this does not suit the individual.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a powerful psychological therapy designed to alleviate distress. It is useful for someone dealing with a distressing or overwhelming event as it can help their brain to process the event as a normal memory. EMDR uses alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, taps or sounds to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system. The result is that distressing memories become less intense allowing the person to become more at ease. This form of therapy is particularly useful with PTSD, anxious and depressed patients.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a talking treatment that looks at your thoughts and behaviours and how these impact your feelings and emotions. During CBT the client is taught how to cope for dealing with different problems, almost retraining your thoughts and encourage positive thinking. CBT can be used to treat many mental health issues and can also be beneficial in daily life.
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