Do you suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition triggered by any event that overwhelms our current coping skills and results in feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror. While the initial reaction to trauma involves stress and a spectrum of strong emotions, most are able to adjust and regulate their feelings within about 3 months of the event. However, others continue experiencing lasting effects of the trauma long after. Symptoms include re-living the event, while asleep or awake, avoiding any reminders of the trauma including related feelings which often results in “emotional numbing,” and experiencing heightened anxiety and emotional arousal including increased anger, irritability, having difficulties sleeping, engaging in self-destructive behaviors, and being easily startled. Experiences often associated with the condition include being in military combat, having been physically or sexually assaulted, and surviving a natural disaster or an accident. However, many other circumstances may result in the disorder such as going through a difficult divorce, caring for a terminally ill loved one, working as an emergency services professional such as police officers, fire fighters, and medical personnel. In fact, any experience can result in symptoms related to PTSD in relation to an event that was perceived as fear provoking.
How can therapy help?
The goal of therapy for PTSD is to bridge the gap “life before the event” and “life after the event.” It involves gaining a greater sense of competence in managing one’s feelings and decreasing feelings of shame, guilt, and helplessness. Therapies indicated for treating PTSD often include components of Cognitive therapy which helps recognize the ways in which one’s thoughts are keeping him or her stuck. Exposure therapy is a behavioral techniques which involves safely facing the frightening thoughts and feelings such that one can learn to cope with them more effectively. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help one more effectively process traumatic memories.