Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that impacts about 8 million adults every year according to the National Center for PTSD. It occurs after someone has endured a trauma and can last for years to come. If left untreated, PTSD can drive a person to deep depression, even to the point of committing suicide.
It might seem as though you are stuck in a dark, never-ending tunnel, but there is hope to be had. Treatment for PTSD can help you regain some peace of mind by helping you learn how to change your thought processes and confront the things that scare you. Let’s take a look at how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you combat your PTSD symptoms.
How PTSD affects your life
Any type of event that results in trauma can contribute to a person developing PTSD. Just take a look at the different events/experiences that can cause PTSD:
- Rape (49% of PTSD sufferers)
- A serious beating or physical assault
- Sexual assault
- A car accident or other serious injury
- Being a victim of or witnesses to stabbing or shooting
- Sudden death of a loved one
- Natural disaster
- Witnessing death (including murder)
- A child having a life-threatening injury or illness
That’s not to mention the PTSD that war veterans experience after potentially witnessing or experiencing several of those factors.
Symptoms of PTSD are often triggered by a place, sight, smell, sound, or person whom the person with PTSD associates with their trauma. For example, a woman might see a man who looks similar to her rapist and then recall the rape itself, or a veteran might hear fireworks and associate them with gunshots. Flashbacks are an incredibly common symptom, forcing the individual to relive their trauma.
Those with PTSD might choose to avoid the things that trigger them. When they do encounter one of their triggers, they might start to feel uneasy or anxious. They will likely exhibit a more easily startled response and might come across as being hyper-vigilant. They might even seem angry or irritable.
PTSD is something that can happen to anyone and can propel them into mental health issues. Sometimes, other mental health conditions co-occur, and these two conditions can feed off of one another. However, a skilled and compassionate CBT therapist can help you or your loved one work with PTSD and co-occurring mental health conditions.
What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
Therapy for PTSD is available, and one option is cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT has been shown to have a positive impact on those with post traumatic stress disorder. It is composed of a few key principles, including:
- Psychological issues are partially based on unhelpful or faulty thinking
- Psychological issues are partially based on unhelpful behaviors and learned behavioral patterns
- People can learn how to cope with their psychological issues, helping them become more productive in their personal and professional lives
The goals of CBT include learning how to recognize your faulty or distorted thought patterns and reevaluate them in a more realistic and helpful manner. You can also get a better understanding of your triggers and develop coping skills that can help you get through difficult situations.
What is CBT for PTSD like?
CBT has been found to be effective in both the long- and short-term. It has been used with success for everyone from war vets to people who have been raped.
Your counselor might ask you do try different methods of CBT, such as exposure therapy. In exposure therapy, you are guided by your therapist in facing your fears. This might be done through writing, visual imagery, or even through virtual reality. Virtual reality technology takes you into a digital setting in which you must confront your fears, which have been programmed in.
Cognitive restructuring helps individuals remember their trauma correctly, as traumatic events sometimes get skewed in our brains. This is actually somewhat normal. Cognitive restructuring helps with realistically looking at the traumatic event and helping people realize that these events were not their fault.
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a more specific form of CBT used for people with PTSD. A counselor will help you look at why the event happened and how it impacted your thoughts. You will learn how to analyze whether your thoughts are based on facts or if they are unhelpful responses to the trauma.
Prolonged exposure is another type of CBT therapy for PTSD. This line of therapy will have you confronting the fears that developed from that trauma. It relies on even more behavioral techniques and utilizes exposure to images as well as repeatedly confronting the things that trigger you.
Stress inoculation training teaches coping skills to help reduce the anxiety you experience with PTSD triggers. It can be combined with other forms of CBT or used as a stand-alone treatment. People are taught to react differently to their symptoms by teaching things like breathing techniques, cognitive restructuring, muscle relaxation, and skills to improve assertiveness.
In addition, people with PTSD are often prescribed medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These antidepressants are sometimes combined with benzodiazepines, psychoactive drugs that function as tranquilizers.
CBT for PTSD and addiction
Some people with PTSD also struggle with addiction. CBT can be used to address both issues and can help with restructuring the thoughts that drive both PTSD and addiction. CBT for PTSD and addiction is not all about what happened in the past that has led up to the problems you are experiencing now but what is going on in the here-and-now.
You and your therapist here at Mission Harbor will be able to work together to find the right type (or combination of) CBT therapy to help treat your PTSD and addiction. During your sessions, you will get to do homework with your counselor and work on your toolbox of coping skills.
The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.
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