What Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Many of us have personally experienced or witnessed a serious accident, a violent assault or the sudden death of a loved one, or lived through a larger-scale traumatic event such as a natural disaster, terrorist attacks or even the COVID-19 pandemic. With time, the shock and grief pass, emotional pain subsides, and life gets back to normal.
Most people recover from traumatic events, but some experience high anxiety, severe distress, and depression for months or even years. Their response to trauma has developed into a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can’t stop re-living the traumatic event or context through flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories. Those affected can’t seem to relax, concentrate, or sleep. They often feel isolated from their loved ones and the world.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), there are about 12 million people in the United States living with post-traumatic stress disorder. The ADAA defines PTSD as: “A serious, potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.”
How Can Feinberg Help With PTSD?
We are an intervention, case management, and coaching company that provides innovative and customized healthcare solutions to individuals and families faced with the impact of PTSD. Our team of clinical professionals will help you achieve the best possible care and recovery outcomes for your loved one.
Through our family-centered approach, we work with families to guide, educate, and support them through their loved ones’ recovery from PTSD. Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process. We ensure that individuals and families receive the tools, education, and ongoing support necessary to maintain a meaningful life of healing and recovery.
How to Help Someone With PTSD?
It can be very difficult to help someone with PTSD. When someone is suffering from the condition, it affects their partner, family members, and friends. It is common for people with PTSD to withdraw from their family and friends, making them hard to reach. PTSD symptoms include anger, irritability, depression, moodiness, and emotional volatility, which are not easy to live with. PTSD can also lead to substance abuse, job loss, and other problems affecting the whole family.
It may be the case that your loved one is unwilling to consider treatment for PTSD, or is in a state of denial about the seriousness of their condition. At Feinberg, our expert intervention teams will collaborate with the wider family to plan and stage an intervention designed to invite your loved one feel the depth of your love for them, to accept your concerns about their deteriorating condition and the impact it is having, and to know that they have your full support should they agree to the specialized, individual recommendation of support being offered.
Can PTSD Be Treated?
Not everyone who has a traumatic experience develops PTSD, and not everyone who develops PTSD requires treatment. For most people, PTSD symptoms subside or disappear over time. Other people get better with the help of their support system (family, friends, or spiritual community). But some people with PTSD need professional treatment to recover from intense and disabling psychological distress.
Everyone is different, and PTSD affects people differently, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. Some people with PTSD may need to try various treatments to find what works for their symptoms.
It is important for anyone with PTSD to be assessed by a mental health professional who is experienced with PTSD.
What Are the Treatments for PTSD?
The goal of treatment for PTSD is to help individuals manage their symptoms, reduce distress, and improve their overall quality of life. This may involve a combination of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication, such as antidepressants.
The main treatments for PTSD are described below. PTSD does not present in a standard way, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. At Feinberg, we will help you find the best treatment program for your loved one’s individual needs.
Therapy for PTSD
Psychotherapy (talk therapy) involves the client talking with a mental health professional to explore their PTSD and can take place one-on-one or in a group. There are a number of psychotherapies that can help treat PTSD. We describe the most common ones below.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing therapy is a type of cognitive therapy designed to treat PTSD. Its focus is on changing painful negative emotions and maladaptive beliefs resulting from the trauma. The therapist supports an individual in confronting distressing memories and emotions.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged exposure therapy relies on exposure, with clients undergoing a repeated re-living of the trauma in a safe, controlled way to help them face and gain control of their fear. One example of exposure therapy is how virtual reality programs have been used to help war veterans with PTSD re-experience the battlefield in a controlled, therapeutic way.
Stress Inoculation Training
Stress inoculation training (SIT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that teaches coping skills to deal with stress. The main objective is to teach people to react differently to their symptoms.
Medication can help to control PTSD symptoms. The most studied type of medication for treating PTSD are antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). They are used either on their own or in combination with psychotherapy or other treatments. The symptom relief that medication provides allows for more effective psychotherapy.
Other medications may be helpful to lower anxiety and distress, treat nightmares or sleep problems, or manage other troubling symptoms of PTSD. Working together with their assigned medical professional, your loved one will find the best medication or medication combination and the right dose.
Other PTSD Treatments
There are other treatment options that can help. Other psychotherapies used to treat PTSD include: eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (T-F CBT), group therapy, family therapy, interpersonal and psychodynamic therapies. The client will be able to discuss all appropriate treatment options with their therapist or medical professional.
How Is PTSD Diagnosed?
Many people who witness or experience a traumatic event can have PTSD-like symptoms in the days following the event. However, for a PTSD diagnosis, symptoms must last for more than a month and must cause high anxiety, severe distress, depression, and/ or problems in the individual’s daily life.
The process of diagnosing PTSD typically involves a mental health professional conducting a comprehensive evaluation which includes taking a thorough medical and psychiatric history, assessing symptoms, conducting a physical examination, and using standardized assessment tools for a more accurate diagnosis. It is important to note that a proper diagnosis can only be made by a qualified mental health professional.
What Causes PTSD?
PTSD can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Common causes of PTSD include wars and military conflict, physical assault, natural disasters, accidents, witnessing violence or death, medical procedures or illnesses, childhood abuse, and trauma.
What Are the Best Self-care Strategies for Managing PTSD?
It may be very hard to take that first step to help yourself. Once you seek professional advice and are in treatment, you can take the following steps to support yourself on your road to recovery:
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Expect recovery to be a long-term process, with your symptoms improving gradually, not right away
- Engage in some form of physical activity or exercise to help reduce stress. Explore mindfulness
- Spend time with other people, and confide in a trusted friend or family member. Tell others what triggers your symptoms
- Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people. Spend time in nature
- Research and practice any forms of self-care that work for you
What Is the Relationship Between PTSD and Substance Abuse?
There is a strong link between PTSD and substance abuse. People with PTSD may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate and cope with their symptoms. Substance abuse can provide temporary relief, but it ultimately worsens the underlying PTSD and creates a cycle of dependence.
Substance abuse can interfere with the effectiveness of PTSD treatment and hamper the individual’s recovery. It can lead to further traumatic events, which can compound the problem and create a cycle of trauma and addiction.
It is important for individuals with PTSD and co-occurring substance abuse to receive treatment that addresses both conditions simultaneously. With proper treatment, individuals with PTSD and substance abuse can reclaim their lives.
Can PTSD Be Completely Cured or Managed?
PTSD can be effectively managed, but it is not always possible to cure it fully. With the right combination of treatment and support, most individuals with PTSD can experience significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life. However, some may continue to experience symptoms when triggered by stressful situations and may need ongoing support.
At Feinberg, we will ensure your loved one works with the best mental health professionals who will implement a tailored treatment plan that meets their specific needs and goals. With the right treatment and support, most individuals with PTSD will enjoy significant improvements in the quality of their lives.
How Long Does PTSD Treatment Typically Take?
The length of treatment for PTSD varies depending on the individual and the specific type of treatment. Generally, treatment for PTSD can take several months to a year or longer, depending on the severity of symptoms and the individual’s response to treatment. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy is a common treatment for PTSD and typically involves weekly sessions with a therapist over the course of several months.
In some cases, more intensive treatment may be required, such as intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization programs. These programs typically provide a higher level of structure and support and may last several weeks to several months. In severe cases, individuals with PTSD will most likely require a combination of therapies and medication in a residential setting.
How Can Family and Friends Support Someone With PTSD?
Family and friends play a crucial role in a loved one’s recovery by offering love, support, and understanding. Family and friends can help by educating themselves, being patient, and maintaining safe, stable environments. If the loved one’s condition deteriorates but they remain reluctant to seek help, their family could encourage them to accept treatment by working with Feinberg to stage an intervention.
Can Group Therapy Be Effective for PTSD Treatment?
Yes, group therapy can be an effective treatment for PTSD. It connects individuals with others who have experienced similar traumatic events and allows them to share their experiences and feelings in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. This sense of community and belonging can be especially helpful for individuals with PTSD, who may feel isolated due to their symptoms.