Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be devastating to the person suffering from the disorder and to his or her loved ones. However, excellent treatment is available.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has  information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and its treatment.

Why do some develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and others don’t?

Not everyone exposed to a traumatic event develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Multiple traumas make Post Traumatic Stress Disorder more likely, however.

What will happen during treatment?

Dr. Cleaveland will evaluate your history, including family history of psychological symptoms, medical history, education and work history, and strengths and weaknesses. Early on, we’ll discuss the trauma to whatever extent you’re comfortable.

Next, you’ll learn strategies for coping with your distress. The two most important are cognitive restructuring and relaxation training.

Next, Dr. Cleaveland will make sure you understand fully exactly how trauma and anxiety work – how trauma affects your body and mind and exactly how and why the treatment works.

We’ll use Prolonged Exposure (PE) treatment or a mix of PE and systematic desensitization after discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment. Together, we’ll create a strategy for PE, and then we’ll follow the treatment plan in session and for homework.

PE treats the physiological symptoms of trauma, but there are existential issues that accompany trauma. For example, trauma victims often deal with victim-blaming, questions about “why me?” or decreased self-esteem. Talk therapy is excellent to work on those issues.

Self-care for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A mix of dealing with the traumatic event head-on through prolonged exposure should be balanced with good self-care.

  • Set time to deal with the trauma (e.g., journaling, therapy), so that you can enjoy other aspects of life without so many intrusive events.
  • Increase positive activities generally, doing things that you enjoy and that relax you. Consider massage, deep relaxation, hot baths, and hobbies, for example.

Cognitive Restructuring

Core beliefs often change after a traumatic experience. A person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may have irrationally negative feelings about safety, trust, self, and the future. One’s sense of the meaning is often disrupted. People, things, and places that were previously safe now feel dangerous. Someone who previously felt confident may now feel powerless. Cognitive restructuring helps people who’ve experienced trauma think more realistically about risk.

Relaxation Training (RT)

PTSD is both psychological and physical. People with PTSD show changes in their brain structure and function relative to those without PTSD.

Changes in the nervous system after Post Traumatic Stress Disorder make near-constant anxiety more likely. Relaxation Training can help reset the baseline stress level so that calm – and good sleep- are possible.

Learn more about RT and download a FREE relaxation hypnosis.

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

Prolonged Exposure is the best treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder triggers, including memories of the trauma, can induce a stress reaction in safe situations. However, when you face the trigger repeatedly, without avoiding it, the fight or flight reaction to that situation decreases substantially. It’s important to work with an experienced psychologist to properly implement PE. There’s nothing easy about PE treatment, but it works. Having an experienced psychologist by your side makes it possible.

What can I do to help a loved one with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often simply wants to pretend the trauma never happened. Avoidance is a natural reaction to scary events. However, treatment often helps people recover earlier, thereby preventing the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from interfering with daily living – like relationships, work, and enjoyment of life.

Listen nonjudgmentally, even if they’re talking about the trauma repeatedly. It’s exactly what they need to do. Encourage them to face their trauma and their symptoms. Encourage good self-care.

And take care of yourself, too.


PTSD Resources

People Against Rape

State Office of Victim Assistance

South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation

National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

FBI – has crime statistics and victim assistance resources.

Edna Foa’s U Penn anxiety treatment & research center

Common Reactions to Sexual Assault Handout