top of page

The Journey to Healing: Overcoming PTSD Symptoms through Trauma Therapy


Woman overwhelmed with mental load of managing home and family

June is National PTSD Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and supporting those impacted to seek help. 


PTSD affects millions of people worldwide, disrupting lives with symptoms like intrusive memories, severe anxiety, and emotional numbness. In addition to these PTSD symptoms, PTSD can also increase a person’s risk of other conditions like depression, substance abuse, and suicide.


Fortunately, there is hope. Trauma therapy offers effective ways to manage and overcome PTSD symptoms, helping people reclaim their lives and find peace. In this article, we explore the journey to healing, discussing PTSD's impact and how therapy can bring relief, restoration, and hope.


Understanding PTSD Symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental health condition that develops in response to experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. While many people experience distress and discomfort after experiencing trauma, people with PTSD continue to experience intense stress and fear long after the traumatic event has ended. 


PTSD symptoms typically fall into four categories:


  • Intrusive memories: Unwanted flashbacks, nightmares, and distressing thoughts related to the traumatic event.

  • Avoidance: Efforts to avoid reminders of the trauma, including places, people, or activities that trigger distressing memories.

  • Negative mood and thinking patterns: Persistent negative beliefs about oneself or the world, feelings of detachment or estrangement from others, and difficulty experiencing positive emotions.

  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions: Hypervigilance, irritability, difficulty concentrating, exaggerated startle response, and sleep disturbances.


These symptoms can often be debilitating and cause a person significant distress. PTSD can profoundly impact a person's life, leading to relationship difficulties, problems with work or school, substance abuse, depression and anxiety disorders, and physical health problems, such as chronic pain and cardiovascular issues.


How Trauma Therapy Can Help

Trauma therapy encompasses a range of specialized therapeutic approaches designed to address the psychological effects of traumatic experiences and promote healing. By providing targeted interventions tailored to the unique needs of individuals with PTSD, therapy offers a path toward recovery and restoration of well-being.


Here's how therapy can help with PTSD:


Processing traumatic memories

One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD is intrusive memories of the traumatic event, which can be distressing and overwhelming. Trauma therapy, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), provides structured methods for safely revisiting and processing these memories. 


Cognitive restructuring

PTSD often involves negative beliefs and distorted thinking patterns about oneself, others, and the world. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a common approach in trauma therapy, helps identify and challenge these maladaptive beliefs. By reframing negative thoughts and replacing them with more balanced and realistic ones, those with PTSD can gain a sense of control over their thoughts and perceptions, reducing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.


Addressing avoidance behaviors

Many people with PTSD engage in avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding reminders of the trauma or withdrawing from social interactions. Trauma therapy encourages gradually confronting and overcoming these avoidance behaviors through exposure-based techniques.


Improving interpersonal relationships

PTSD can strain relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. Trauma therapy provides a space to explore and address relational difficulties stemming from traumatic experiences. Through couples therapy, family therapy, or interpersonal skills training, people with PTSD can learn effective communication strategies, rebuild trust, and strengthen their connections with others.


Enhancing overall well-being

Beyond symptom reduction, trauma therapy aims to improve overall quality of life and functioning. By addressing the underlying psychological and emotional wounds of trauma, those with PTSD can experience greater self-esteem, resilience, and a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in life. Trauma therapy empowers individuals to not only survive but thrive in the aftermath of trauma.


Common PTSD Treatment

As mentioned above, trauma therapy doesn’t refer to one specific type of therapy but rather encompasses a range of therapeutic methods and techniques that help people with PTSD reduce symptoms and improve overall well-being.


Two of the most common approaches for treating PTSD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well-regarded, evidence-based PTSD treatment. Rooted in the understanding that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, CBT offers a structured and goal-oriented framework for addressing the symptoms of PTSD.


In the context of PTSD, CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to PTSD symptoms. One of the primary goals of CBT is to help develop more adaptive ways of thinking and coping with traumatic experiences.


Through collaborative exploration and cognitive restructuring, those with PTSD can learn to recognize and challenge maladaptive beliefs related to the traumatic event. These may include beliefs about oneself (e.g., "I am weak"), others (e.g., "People cannot be trusted"), or the world (e.g., "The world is a dangerous place"). Questioning the accuracy and validity of these beliefs is the first step to replacing them with more balanced and realistic perspectives.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a specialized form of therapy that has shown effectiveness in treating PTSD and other trauma-related conditions. EMDR is grounded in the belief that traumatic memories can become stuck in the brain's natural processing system, which contributes to the development of PTSD symptoms.


EMDR involves a structured approach that integrates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and bilateral stimulation to help individuals process and resolve traumatic memories. During EMDR sessions, individuals are guided to recall distressing memories while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as following the therapist's finger movements with their eyes or listening to alternating auditory tones.


The bilateral stimulation is thought to facilitate the brain's natural information-processing mechanisms, allowing traumatic memories to be reprocessed and integrated in a way that reduces their emotional intensity and distressing impact. As a result, individuals often experience a reduction in PTSD symptoms and a greater sense of resolution and closure regarding their traumatic experiences.



Finding PTSD Treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD symptoms, know that you’re not alone. Trauma therapy can provide a safe space to process past trauma and find healing. 


Our experienced therapists are experts in treating PTSD, including CBT and EMDR. Contact us today to begin your journey towards healing from PTSD.






Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page