PTSD therapy: techniques and activities that promote recovery
It is possible to cure post-traumatic stress disorder, but it is not always simple or easy to do. For many people, even asking for help or admitting that they experience difficulties can be the biggest hindrance.
The path of PTSD therapy can be tiring, with symptoms being relieved one day, and then reoccur the next day, forcing one to start everything all over.
There may be plenty of reasons why treatment is not working for you as quickly as you wish, and sometimes you may (unknowingly) be putting obstacles in your way of recovery.
It is important to talk to your therapist or general practitioner about your problems. However, the most important thing is to trust the process.
In general, there are two main psychotherapeutic approaches that are recommended for the treatment of PTSD:
- Eye-Moving Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) method.
- Trauma-oriented cognitive-behavioral therapy.
However, there are many other treatments and measures that can be used to alleviate PTSD symptoms or in parallel with them. Some of them have a short-term effect, others have a long-term effect. When they are offered as part of a carefully developed PTSD psychotherapy program and methods of overcoming the disorder, they can bring long-awaited relief to people.
However, any of the methods of alleviating PTSD symptoms should be considered a «quick fix». It is important to have realistic expectations and find something that suits you personally. Remember, this is not medical advice, but a practice that has helped others and can help you.
Make sure you consult a specialist to find the methods most suitable for you.
Techniques for working with PTSD: how to support yourself
If you have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, some simple everyday steps can also help you recover. Here are several effective techniques for working with PTSD:
- Follow a schedule of the day. Organizing as normal a life as possible can give you a sense of grounding.
- Talk to someone you trust. Talking to someone who has experienced a similar situation can also help.
- Try relaxation exercises. This can be meditation or other relaxation exercises. If it is too difficult for you, do consult a therapist regarding the exercises that may be right for you.
- Go back to work or school. This can give you a sense of routine and will keep you busy. However, you should try to avoid situations that may expose you to further injuries or severe stress.
- Eat and exercise regularly. Even if you don’t want to – try to eat according to the schedule, and sports will help you feel more tired when it’s time to sleep.
- Spend time with others. This will give you a sense of support.
- Expect improvements. Focusing on the fact that you will eventually get better will be beneficial to your recovery.
- Return to the place where the traumatic event occurred only when you feel you can do it. Talk to your therapist or doctor if you are planning to do this so they can support you at this stage.
There are also things you should be careful with during your recovery. Doing the «right thing» can be very difficult, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you find yourself doing any of the following:
- Self-criticism. PTSD symptoms are not a sign of weakness. They are a normal reaction to terrible experiences.
- Keeping your feelings to yourself. If you have PTSD, don’t feel guilty about sharing your thoughts and feelings with others. Talking about how you feel can support your recovery.
- You expect everything to return to normal instantly. PTSD treatment can take time. Try not to expect too much from yourself too quickly.
- Staying away from other people. Spending a lot of time on your own can increase the feeling of isolation and make you feel worse.
- Drinking alcohol and smoking. Although alcohol can help you relax, over time it can make you feel worse. Coffee and nicotine can stimulate the nervous system, which can also make you feel worse.
- Inducing fatigue. PTSD can make it difficult to sleep, but try as much as possible to observe your usual sleep pattern so as to not make you feel worse.
- Driving a car. Be careful while driving. Accidents happen more often to people who have experienced a traumatic event.
Test to define a post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Questionnaire (PCL-5)
Activities to ease PTSD: recommended methods
Here are several techniques that will help with PTSD.
Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce physiological arousal in people with PTSD, helping to minimize the risk of intrusive memories and other physical symptoms of PTSD.
It is simply a series of steps aimed at increasing awareness, concentration and peace, which makes it a valuable psychotherapeutic method. It can give people the ability to better control their mind and emotions caused by PTSD.
This psychosensory therapy is used to eliminate deep-rooted anxiety and strong, instinctive negative reactions – it places your emotional reactions in a safe space – a refuge. This can break the cycle of negative emotional reactions associated with PTSD.
Music therapy can stimulate the release of positive hormones, such as oxytocin, counteract hormones associated with increased stress, and provide sensory changes that can force us to instinctively relax muscle tension. All of that is important for people with PTSD.
Martial arts allow you to understand and develop a good relationship with power, help you express your emotions, help you practice self-care, help you set and maintain boundaries, and help you relax.
Horse therapy (hippotherapy)
Therapeutic horseback riding can lead to a statistically significant reduction in PTSD symptoms such as insomnia, flashbacks or panic attacks after just three weeks.
Many studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for treating PTSD. It can affect areas of the brain known to reduce stress sensitivity and promote relaxation, as well as combat other problems such as joint pain, muscle pain, lack of energy, and disturbed sleep.
It is believed that easing of PTSD symptoms as a result of running is associated with an increase in the level of a brain protein called «brain neurotrophic factor». This protein is usually reduced in people with PTSD and plays a certain role in eliminating fear, helping the brain establish context and, as a result, a sense of safety.
Artistic creativity can change the neural pathways of the brain, which can help change the way we think and feel.
For many years, it has been observed that water has healing properties – not only does it help to clean and heal physical wounds, but it can also have a huge positive effect on mental health.
Writing and journaling
Journaling is a safe place for random thoughts, feelings, and experiences that would otherwise clutter your mind. Writing down words on paper becomes a way of purification and can reduce the emotional reactions associated with PTSD.
Gardening can be incredibly beneficial for people with PTSD. It combines physical activity, social interaction and the influence of nature and sunlight. Sunlight lowers blood pressure and also increases the level of vitamin D in the summer, and the fruits and vegetables you’ve grown have a positive effect on the diet.
With the help of hypnosis (in essence, a deeply relaxed state), we can restore and develop new, positive pathways in the brain that contribute to long-term and healthy mental behavior.
How long does PTSD treatment lastTreatment of PTSD takes at least 2 months. The duration and methods of treatment are individual and are determined by a doctor. If you suspect that you or a loved one has PTSD, do not self-medicate, seek medical advice.
Who treats post-traumatic syndromeTreatment of post-traumatic stress disorder takes place under the supervision of a psychiatrist, psychologist, and psychotherapist.