In the past, there was little to no understanding about what PTSD is and how to treat it. It was often ignored or labeled as cowardice. It is not until the late years of the 20th century that people started noticing this as a condition that was later treated with psychiatric medications, exposure therapy, and psychiatric sessions.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after being witnessing or being involved in traumatic events. Although we most frequently associate it with soldiers who returned from the war, there is a wide range of experiences that can cause it. Being in a car crash is one of them. Having a traumatic childbirth, being assaulted or raped, losing someone in disturbing circumstances, and surviving a terrorist attack can also be some of the causes of PTSD.
Fortunately, scientists have not given up on the search for more effective treatments, and in this article, we will explore them.
But first, what causes PTSD and what are the symptoms?
As we mentioned, this condition is caused by a traumatic event. Usually, the first symptoms appear one month after the event, but it can take up to one year for the first signs of the disorder to appear. The most frequent symptoms PTSD sufferers experience are insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares, irritability, anger, suicidal thoughts and thoughts about harming oneself.
The first time in history when something similar to PTSD was mentioned is when veterans who were returning from WWI experienced confusion, nightmares, and fatigue. They called it “shell shock”. PTSD was first recognized as a psychological and mental disability in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association, and then, it only referred to veterans. It was not until the mid-‘90s when the definition was expanded to cover everyone who had experienced a traumatic event.
Most common treatment options
PTSD is often treated with psychiatric medicines, but there are other therapies that are usually used.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy includes the traumatized person talking about the experience, thus trying to work through the negative emotions associated with it.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy which guides the patient through eight steps to desensitize the brain of negative thoughts, which are eventually replaced by positive ones.
- Exposure therapy is when a patient is exposed to images related to the traumatic event (e.g., videos of war) to overcome the trauma.
New approaches that could be game-changing
Awareness of this condition is growing, which brings to finding better ways to cope with PTSD.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active cannabinoid derived from cannabis. Some of its benefits that could be used for treating or relieving PTSD symptoms are reducing nausea, suppressing psychotic disorders, and reducing the effects of anxiety and depression. It is also helpful for sleeping disorders.
- Service dogs make great companions for persons who have experienced trauma. It is believed that they can help relieve panic attacks and anxiety, and clam a person down.
- 3MDR is similar to exposure therapy but more advanced and sensible. It comes down to a patient walking on the treadmill while reacting to self-selected images related to the traumatic event. The goal is to eliminate cognitive avoidance, which is often used as a coping strategy that can do more harm than good when it comes to dealing with PTSD.
- Mindfulness training includes structured exercises which encourage facing with the traumatic experience in a non-judgmental way. It can be done through deep breathing exercises, meditation, and other ways of present-moment experience. This is particularly important because it emphasizes the relevance of accepting unwanted thoughts and feelings. It promotes self-compassion and awareness.
- Written exposure therapy is a gentler variety of exposure therapy which encourages patients to write down the distressing events in a structured and brief way.
Is PTSD incurable?
There are multiple factors that can affect the results of various therapies. PTSD is, for example, often followed by other issues, such as alcoholism and relationship problems. If it is followed by a lack of support from the loved ones, it is even more difficult to overcome. One thing is clear. There is a need for new approaches that could bring some relief into the lives of the individuals who have suffered terrible traumas. The five we mentioned here should just be a start. What we as a society can do is to provide more understanding and support.