CBT for POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition where you have recurring distressing memories, flashbacks, and other symptoms after suffering or witnessing a traumatic event. Treatment options include antidepressant medication and nondrug treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition which develops after you have been involved in, or witnessed, a serious trauma such as a life-threatening assault. During the trauma you feel intense fear, helplessness or horror. In some people PTSD develops soon after the trauma. However, in some cases the symptoms first develop several months, or even years, after the trauma..
The strict definition of PTSD is that the trauma you had or witnessed must be severe. For example: a severe accident, rape, a life-threatening assault, torture, seeing someone killed, etc. However, symptoms similar to PTSD develop in some people after less severe traumatic events.
It is estimated that up to 1 in 10 people may develop PTSD at some stage in life. One large survey of the general population in England found that 3 in 100 adults screened positive for PTSD.
It is much more common in certain groups of people. For example, some studies have found that PTSD develops in about:.
•1 in 5 firefighters.
•1 in 3 survivors of car crashes.
•1 in 2 female rape victims.
•2 in 3 prisoners of war.
THE SYMPTOMS OF PTSD
Recurring thoughts, memories, images, dreams, or flashbacks of the trauma which are distressing.
You try to avoid thoughts, conversations, places, people, activities or anything which may trigger memories of the trauma, as these make you distressed or anxious.
Feeling emotionally numb and feeling detached from others. You may find it difficult to have loving feelings.
Your outlook for the future is often pessimistic. You may lose interest in activities which you used to enjoy and find it difficult to plan for the future.
Increased arousal which you did not have before the trauma. This may include:
Difficulty in getting off to sleep or staying asleep.
Being irritable which may include outbursts of anger.
You may be startled more easily than before.
It is normal to feel upset straight after a traumatic event. But for many people the distress gradually eases. If you have PTSD the distressing feelings and symptoms persist. In some cases the symptoms last just a few months, and then ease or go. However, in some cases the symptoms persist long-term.
CBT FOR PTSD
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is usually recommended. Briefly, CBT is based on the idea that certain ways of thinking can trigger, or fuel, certain mental health problems such as PTSD. The therapist helps you to understand your current thought patterns. In particular, to identify any harmful, unhelpful, and false ideas or thoughts. The aim is then to change your ways of thinking to avoid these ideas. Also, to help your thought patterns to be more realistic and helpful. It may help especially to counter recurring distressing thoughts, and avoidance behaviour. Therapy is usually done in weekly sessions of about 50 minutes each, for several weeks. You have to take an active part, and are given homework between sessions.
EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITISATION AND REPROCESSING
EMDR is a treatment that works well for PTSD. Briefly, during this treatment a therapist asks you to think of aspects of the traumatic event. Whilst you are thinking about this you follow the movement of the therapist's moving fingers with your eyes or through tapping your hands. It is not clear how this works. It seems to desensitise your thought patterns about the traumatic event. After a few sessions of therapy, you will find that the memories of the event do not upset you as much as before.
Antidepressant medicines are often prescribed. These are commonly used to treat depression, but have been found to help reduce the main symptoms of PTSD even if you are not depressed. They work by interfering with brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin which may be involved in causing symptoms.
Antidepressants take 2-4 weeks before their effect builds up, and can take up to three months. A common problem is that some people stop the medicine after a week or so as they feel that it is doing no good. You need to give an antidepressant time to work. If one does help, it is usual to stay on the medication for 6-12 months, sometimes longer.