Today we talk about the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We have all heard about this disorder. We know that people who have been exposed to situations where they felt in grave danger suffer from it. Something unexpectedly happened that affected them considerably.
Rape, robbery, wars, terrorist attacks are some examples of events that can trigger PTSD. But it doesn’t just depend on man-made situations. It can also be caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes. The question is: how to treat it?
The first steps in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: psychoeducation and breathing
When you suffer from a psychological disorder, the first thing to do is to go to a suitable psychologist. Following this line, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive behavioral intervention is the most widely accepted and most endorsed by empirical evidence. If we want to minimize the risk of error, it is better to look for a professional who works with interventions specific to this current.
This therapist will make an initial assessment, which is vital to understanding the patient’s problems. Later it is important that you carry out psycho-education: he will explain to the patient what is happening to him in terms that are understandable to him. At this point it is necessary to emphasize the symptoms experienced by the individual, explaining why they appear, what keeps them and how they will be treated.
The aim is for the person to understand as much as possible what is happening to them. Understanding why and how you will try to solve the problem is essential to adhere to treatment and achieve improvements. Once he understands all this, he will move on to teaching him one fundamental thing: to relax.
If we train the patient in abdominal breathing, we will give him a simple and very useful tool that he can put into practice when that anxiety typical of post-traumatic stress disorder appears. Once the patient has become familiar with the process, it is important that he practices it consistently from the very beginning.
How to continue with the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder?
In addition to providing tools that the person can use when anxiety increases, it is important to work on other aspects that are present, even if not always seen. We refer to the thoughts and beliefs associated with the event that triggered it all. If we do not address this, the treatment of PTSD will be incomplete, it will be like putting a band-aid on an open wound.
For this reason, it is important that the patient learns to identify those ideas that arise in his mind and that revolve around a single message: “it was my fault” or “I will not be able to overcome it” or “the world is full. of dangers and it will happen again ”. In other words, he must learn to spot automatic thoughts and irrational beliefs as they arise.
This will be the first step towards cognitive restructuring. Subsequently, using the Socratic dialogue, all this will be questioned during the visit. In this way, in the course of the sessions, the person will learn to break down those ideas that affect the maintenance of the disorder.
Finalization of the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder
In order for the treatment of PTSD to be comprehensive, we need to add something else. Since these people usually avoid everything related to the situation in which they experienced the danger, it is important to work on the exposure, both in the imagination and in real life.
This way they will be able to reduce their anxiety level and get used to the situation. They will also learn that remembering the episode doesn’t mean they have to relive it, just as it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll lose control again. On the other hand, it will be necessary to distinguish between the traumatic event and other events associated with it, which however are not dangerous.
During the sessions, a precise idea will be used: what happened was a concrete and specific episode, not a probable or frequent general fact. Finally, there will be an increase in self-control, in addition to the fact that the patient will see himself better able to manage the situation.
Finally, as with all anxiety problems, it is important to include relapse prevention in the treatment of PTSD. This last step is critical because it will help consolidate the progress made and give the patient a greater sense of power. In this way and following the scientific method, we will allow the person to take back the reins of his life.
Images courtesy of Ian Espinosa, Ander Burdain and Jordy Meow.