June 9, 2015 Tahj Mayes

PTSD Recovery Methods

Do you know what is the worst human struggle? It’s the struggle that a person faces alone.

5.2 million Americans suffer from PTSD, yet victims feel isolated and ashamed, and remain silent.

June is PTSD awareness month and PTSD Day is June 27th. Raising awareness means learning about the symptoms of PTSD and the treatments available. It means that more and more people are realizing that PTSD affects a significant number of Americans, and that it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s not something to feel ashamed of. This is how we do it in the new VFW; no judgement; focus on deliberately moving forward.

There are an increasing number of treatments available. Traditional PTSD recovery methods have been thoroughly researched and are considered evidence-based. The non-traditional treatments may have less streamlined research backing them, but enough PTSD patients have experienced mild to significant results using them that many of them are being considered, studied, and recommended as supplemental therapy.

Find out more about both traditional and non-traditional PTSD recovery methods below and find more resources (further below), especially for veterans suffering from PTSD.

Traditional PTSD Recovery Methods

These are mainstream treatments for PTSD and are the treatments that doctors typically prescribe.

1) Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most recognized type of therapy used for trauma victims.

These are the most commonly used CBTs for PTSD:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
  • CBT-I Therapy – the “i” stands for Insomnia (specifically for learning skills for sleeping)

The details will vary, but a typical starting place is at least 3-4 months of weekly visits. Patients learn and practice new skills for coping with past trauma.

2) EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

An integrative psychotherapy method that has proven effective for treating PTSD and incorporates eye movement and mind-body connection.

3) Medication

Antidepressants and benzodiazepines are two of the most commonly prescribed medications for PTSD. These treat the symptoms rather than the cause and, like all medication, they have a risk of side-effects like nausea, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, and dependency.

Non-traditional PTSD Recovery Methods

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies are subtle, non-intrusive, and generally focus on the mind-body connection. They may be recommended as supplemental therapy to support progress made in counseling or to help in lessening dependency on medication, and they have also been used as a gateway treatment. For someone who isn’t willing to try a traditional method, one or several of these can help ease them into treatment.

These non-traditional PTSD recovery methods may or may not be something your doctor is familiar with or recommends. By learning about these options, you can ask your doctor or even seek out providers on your own.

1) Trauma-informed Yoga – guided by certified Integrated Yoga therapists and focuses on relieving anxiety with sensitivity to emotional triggers.

2) Acupuncture – thin needles are inserted into your body along energy meridians for relieving stress, anxiety, and physical pain or discomfort.

3) Emotional Freedom Technique – described as acupuncture without needles. Patients learn to tap acupoints and release stress and emotions associated with their trauma.

4) Meditation/Mindfulness – this may be used in therapy, but can also be learned and practiced as self-help, or as a part of trauma-informed yoga program.

5) Relaxation – another self-help method, this can include muscle-relaxation exercises, breathing or meditation, physical activity, spending time in nature, or listening to relaxing music.

6) Music Therapy – learning to play an instrument can be therapeutic and is an emerging CAM therapy.

7) Animal therapist – Dogs can be trained therapists who offer acceptance, assistance, and emotional comfort. There are also therapist who use dogs in their practice.

8) Virtual Reality Therapy or Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy – takes exposure therapy to the next level using virtual reality technology.

There is no comfort like connecting with someone who understands–truly understands–what you are going through. If you think you might have PTSD, if you wonder about getting help, or if you feel alone in your struggle, go to AboutFace. See and hear from veterans who live with PTSD.

Even if symptoms of PTSD come and go or are only mildly disruptive to your life, if not treated, PTSD can grow worse over time. PTSD symptoms may even show up months or years after a person experiences trauma.

As our understanding and awareness of PTSD grows, so do our methods for working through its struggles. There are different approaches to treating PTSD and there isn’t one miraculous cure. Find the way(s) that work for you.

PTSD Recovery Resources:

National Center for PTSD

Whiteboard videos that explain the types of therapies and medications

Take a self-screen PTSD test

AboutFace (Hear from veterans about PTSD treatments)

More videos from veterans who are working through PTSD

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