June is National PTSD Month: Here's How You Can Get Involved
Many of us go through things that are difficult to comprehend. Things happen to us that don’t always make sense, but it hurts just the same.
There’s a saying that not all scars are visible. Right now, it’s estimated that 70% of Americans will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime (1).
June is National PTSD Awareness Month. Today, we’re shedding light on this prevalent topic, as well as offering ways you can help those you love recover from traumatic experiences in a healthy, holistic way.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that happens when a person either witnesses or experiences a traumatic event (2).
PTSD can affect people of all ages. Many veterans experience PTSD after witnessing death or injury in times of war. Others may develop PTSD after experiencing assault, unwanted sexual encounters, an accident, abuse, or other type of disaster.
Whatever the cause, the effects are typically intense, complex, and life-altering.
PTSD affects the whole person, yet not everyone will have the same signs. Some people will begin showing signs soon after a traumatic event, others may take longer.
Those with PTSD often experience symptoms like (3):
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Feeling tense, edgy, or guarded
- Thoughts of suicide or revenge
- Acting reckless or destructive
- Isolation, social anxiety or awkwardness
- Being easily startled
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Problems remembering details
- Trouble concentrating
- Intense feelings of blame, guilt, shame, or regret
Adults often respond differently to trauma than children. When children younger than 6 experience a traumatic event, they may:
- Wet the bed even though they’re potty trained
- Have trouble talking
- Become extremely clingy
- Act out the frightening event during times of play
If you notice signs in a loved one, try not to panic. With help, your love and support will help them find healing.
Treatments and Therapies
If you’re looking to help someone begin their healing journey from PTSD, where do you start?
While the complexity of PTSD varies from person to person, there is hope for recovery and being able to return to a more normal life.
Taking a holistic approach by addressing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of PTSD will inevitably give you the best possible outcomes.
Research shows that those who’ve experienced trauma may carry physical symptoms. Muscle tightness or tension, headaches, joint or back pain, high blood pressure, and digestive problems are but a few of the physical manifestations of PTSD (4).
One study confirmed that physical activity was effective at helping to reduce PTSD symptoms in veterans (5).
Some ideas might be:
- Weight resistance
Addressing the psychological part of PTSD can be done in a few different ways. After an initial evaluation, your practitioners may offer psychotherapy (6) such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Often referred to as the “gold standard” in psychotherapy, CBT takes the relationship between a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors with any current issues or symptoms, with the goal of changing the behaviors that keep people from moving forward (8).
- Cognitive Therapy (CT): Closely related to CBT, CT aims to break behavior patterns that stem from negative thoughts or emotions related to a traumatic experience (7).
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): This technique is used to help challenge and adjust unhelpful beliefs a person has when it comes to their traumatic experiences (9).
- Prolonged Exposure: This method aims to expose the person slowly but consistently to their trauma. The goal behind this is to eventually help the person see that what they’ve been avoiding all along wasn’t as dangerous as they thought (10).
Additional therapies may include:
- Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET): Commonly used in group sessions, NET helps people put traumatic events into the context of their life narrative (11).
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy: During EMDR, people are advised to think about a traumatic memory while experiencing bilateral stimulation at the same time (such as moving their eyes back and forth). This exercise has been shown to reduce the vividness of the event and any negative emotions attached (12).
- Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy (BEPP): By combining psychodynamics, cognitive-behavior, and directive psychotherapy, BEPP is used to help encourage expression, vulnerability, and feelings in order to shift the perspective to see a potential silver lining (13).
Similar to how you receive and interpret traumatic events, studies show that our emotions can be blocked or stifled, increasing feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and more (16).
Talking with a friend or therapist can help. Prayer and meditation can also help bring things into focus.
Herbs also have a powerful way of regulating emotions. Specific plants have compounds that help neutralize stress signals in the body, bringing a more calm and peaceful approach to events and circumstances.
It’s hard to see loved ones going through PTSD. Thankfully, there are resources to help guide you and your loved ones on their healing journey.
Several organizations such as Real Warriors, Medline Plus, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the PTSD Alliance (17) have made it their goal to equip and empower those suffering from PTSD. Whether the event happened during childhood, during military service, in a relationship, medically, or elsewhere, professionals are here to help.
Hosting awareness events, supporting local causes, and sharing helpful information go a long way in bridging the gap between pain and peace.
Most people will experience at least one traumatic event within their lifetime. Learning why PTSD happens can help direct a course of action that is both compassionate and compelling.
PTSD not only affects the person but the family and friends of the person as well. That’s why it’s important to take care of both the person who is healing as well as those around them.
Adopting an empathetic attitude and holistic perspective can speed up the recovery process for both you and your loved one. By incorporating healing herbs, physical activity, and psychotherapy, PTSD can one day be a distant memory that holds no power over your future.
Do you know someone who could use support in their PTSD journey? Share this article with them today!
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author