PTSD Awareness MonthJune is PTSD Awareness Month. There are currently about 12 million people in the United States with PTSD. PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

According to the National Center for PTSD, about 6 of every 10 men (60%) and 5 of every 10 women (50%) will experience at least one trauma in their lives. While some individuals may recover within a few months, others may take years, or symptoms may even begin long after the event.

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. Some factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

There are 4 types of PTSD symptoms:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. They can feel very real and scary. You may have nightmares, or you may experience flashbacks. You may see, hear or smell something that causes you to relive the event. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing fireworks are examples of trauma reminders.
  2. Avoiding things that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people remind you of the trauma event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. Sometimes you may avoid crowds because they feel dangerous, or you may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
  3. Having more negative thoughts and feelings than before the event. The way you think about yourself, and others may become more negative because of the trauma. You may feel numb—unable to have positive or loving feelings toward other people—and lose interest in things you used to enjoy. You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or you may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
  4. Feeling on edge or keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. You may have a hard time sleeping or you may find it hard to concentrate. You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.

Many who suffer from PTSD may act in unhealthy ways, like smoking, abusing drugs or alcohol, or driving aggressively.

Unfortunately, most people who have PTSD don’t get the help they need even though PTSD treatments work. Everyone with PTSD—whether they are Veterans or civilian survivors of sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, or other traumatic events—can lead a better quality of life after treatment. Both trauma-focused psychotherapy and medication are proven to treat PTSD.

The 3 most effective types of trauma-focused psychotherapy are:

  1. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) where you learn skills to understand how trauma changed your thoughts and feelings. Changing how you think about the trauma can change how you feel.
  2. Prolonged Exposure (PE) where you talk about your trauma repeatedly until memories are no longer upsetting. This will help you get more control over your thoughts and feelings about the trauma.
  3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – People with PTSD react negatively to the memory of their traumas. EMDR can change how you react to memories of your trauma over a period of time.

Recovery at the Crossroads is a leading NJ alcohol and drug addiction treatment center offering EMDR. Valerie Willis, our EMDR therapist, explains what she does for her clients:

“EMDR allows clients the ability to reprocess abusive, painful, and traumatic memories that have affected their childhood, family dynamics, self-esteem, mood, and substance use. EMDR allows for processing the memories, thoughts, and feelings in a safe and therapeutic way so the brain can reestablish a more neutral psychological and physical reaction to the past triggers and body responses..”

What exactly happens during EMDR?

Your therapist will ask you to choose a memory from the trauma and identify the negative thoughts, emotions, and feelings in your body that go with it. You’ll think about this memory while you pay attention to a sound (like a beeping tone) or a movement (like your therapist’s finger moving back and forth). Once the memory becomes less upsetting, you’ll work on adding a positive thought.

Valerie has twenty years of experience treating clients who have life-long triggers resulting in maladaptive reactions. EMDR helps them learn new pathways to a healthier coping style and empowerment.

Some more general coping strategies for PTSD include:

  • Engaging in positive, healthy activities that are rewarding, meaningful, or enjoyable
  • Staying connected by spending time with people who give you a sense of security, calm, or happiness, or those who best understand what you are feeling
  • Practicing good self-care by engaging in activities such as listening to music, exercising, practicing breathing routines, or spending time in nature or with animals
  • Sticking to your routines and follow a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work and do other day-to-day activities
  • Limiting news and social media exposure especially if it is increasing your distress

If you or your loved one is suffering from PTSD, don’t suffer in silence. Call us TODAY.