Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
What is PTSD?
Traumatic experiences (such as assaults, serious accidents, fires and natural disasters) can happen to anyone. Up to 20% of people who have been exposed to a traumatic event go on to develop a problem called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People who suffer from PTSD relive the traumatic experience through nightmares and flashbacks, feel detached from family and friends, avoid situations which remind them of the event, and their bodies tend to be on ‘red alert’ much of the time. The exact nature of PTSD varies from person to person. Symptoms vary in intensity from one person to the next and can be very disabling. A few people develop PTSD months or even years after the trauma.
Who is most likely to develop PTSD?
Whilst it is certainly true that the higher the ‘dose’ of trauma the greater the risk of developing PTSD, there are other reasons to explain why some people develop PTSD and others do not. Below are some of the factors that may make the difference:
• How controllable the traumatic event was thought to be at the time.
• Having already been exposed to an earlier traumatic event, particularly in childhood.
• Not having reasonable levels of social support in the community
• Feeling responsible, ashamed, or guilty for the occurrence of the traumatic event.
Do people recover from PTSD?
About half of those who have PTSD recover without help in the first year after a traumatic event. A few people who were without symptoms initially go on to develop PTSD later in their lives, but most people get symptoms straight away. The more severe the symptoms are initially, the more likely it is that they will become chronic. Sometimes the severity of the symptoms fluctuates over time. Initially mild symptoms can become more severe after big life changes like retirement and physical illness, for example. Symptoms almost always get worse for a short period around the anniversary of the trauma.
Can treatment help?
Trauma focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective for people with PTSD. If you have had no earlier traumatic event in your life, and you have no significant prior mental health problems, the likelihood that you will get better with treatment is around 70 – 80%. People who have been exposed to more than one traumatic event, particularly those who have also been traumatised in childhood, can and do get a lot better, but not always completely.
Aims of treatment
• To help manage symptoms and reduce the negative effects that PTSD has on your life.
• To help process the trauma memories so that you can remember the events and their consequences without reliving them
• To help deal with unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving in ways that will reduce your sense of threat and strong emotions like guilt, shame and anger.
• To plan activities which improve your sense of satisfaction and achievement and allow you to restart a fuller, less restricted life.
How can OHSPIC help?
We offer expert assessment and evidenced based trauma focused CBT treatment for PTSD in standard weekly and intensive formats to suit individual needs. An assessment will include a detailed assessment so that we can come to a comprehensive and shared understanding of the problem and associated difficulties to determine if trauma focused CBT would be helpful at this point in time.
Updated guideline on PTSD and its treatment (2018)
National Centre for PTSD