Tackling PTSD

Experts agree that the most effective form of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a combined package of both medication and psychotherapy.

PTSD, as the name would suggest, is caused by traumatic events. When people experience traumatic events, the symptoms of PTSD may not appear for many months after these events occurred. However, once the symptoms arise, it is important to receive psychotherapy in order to help sufferers come to terms with these events and control the emotions that are now arising.

Some people simply learn to live with the symptoms of PTSD. We feel you should not simply accept the symptoms of PTSD given that many effective treatments exist. For instance, people serving in the World Wars and the Vietnamese War were effectively forced to accept the symptoms of PTSD because very little support was set up to assist these people. In fact, PTSD was not even recognised as an official mental health condition.

Nowadays, lots of options exist to help people suffering from PTSD. Even if you have lived with the symptoms of PTSD for many years, then at least know that it is never too late to seek out help.

We now outline the three steps that help you overcome PTDS:

Step 1: Assessment

If you suspect you could be experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, then it is critical for you to be assessed by a medical expert who specialises in the field of mental health. Often, this professional is known as a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist or other competent medical professional will carry out a full assessment and then a correct diagnosis of PTSD will be made. If the medical professional is satisfied that you do suffer from PTSD, then a tailored treatment plan will be put in place.

Before you are referred to a psychiatrist, your first port of call is to visit your local GP. Your GP is tasked with referring you to an appropriate mental health specialist. Your GP will first determine if you have experienced the symptoms of PTSD for a sufficient period of time, typically four weeks in duration. This information validates the need to refer you to a mental health specialist.

Once your GP refers you to a mental health specialist, expect to wait up to 3 months until your first appointment takes place. The NHS attempts to see patients as soon as possible, but mental health experts are in high demand meaning you must submit to a patient waiting list. If you would like to speed up the process of being seen by a psychiatrist, you will need to pay for your treatment privately.

Step 2: Psychotherapy

Once you have been seen by a mental health professional, you will likely begin to attend weekly psychotherapy sessions. These sessions take place on an outpatient basis. If you are experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD, medication will also be prescribed to you to help reduce these symptoms.

Psychotherapy is carried out by an expert therapist. This person is skilled at treating a range of mental health conditions, including PTSD, anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. During psychotherapy sessions, the therapist will help you confront the causes of your PTSD. The therapist will also assist you in developing strategies to help resolve PTSD.

The most common forms of psychotherapy used to combat PTSD include:

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT helps you to resolve issues by changing the way you think and act. CBT gives you the tools you need to come to terms with traumatic events. The therapist will ask you to recount the traumatic event in detail. The therapist will help you to cope with the negative emotions that arise as you begin to recount the memory of the traumatic event. Trauma-focused CBT runs over an 8-12 week period on an outpatient basis
  2. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): During EMDR sessions, the therapist will ask you to move your eyes side-to-side by following the movement of his or her finger. Whilst you move your eyes side-to-side, you will also be asked to recall traumatic events. Because your mind is distracted by the movement of the therapist’s finger, you detach from memories of the traumatic event as you recall them to the therapist
  3. Group therapy: Like the name suggests, takes place in groups. Group members consist of both yourself and other people who are battling with the symptoms of PTSD. Group therapy sessions are supervised and led by a qualified therapist. During group therapy sessions, you will be able to speak about your experiences with other fellow PTSD sufferers

Step 3: Medication

If you suffer from severe symptoms of PTSD, then it is likely you will be given medication even before you are seen by a mental health specialist. In other less severe cases, you may not be given medication until you have undergone psychotherapy.

The most common medication given to people experiencing PTSD is anti-depressants such as phenelzine, sertraline, mirtazapine, and amitriptyline. If medical treatment is no effective, the dosage will usually be increased.

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