What is PTSD?
PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric condition that occurs following the experience of a traumatic, often life-threatening event. Examples of common causes of PTSD are warfare, terrorist activity, natural disasters, physical/sexual assaults and serious accidents.
Although survivors of trauma will almost inevitably suffer severe symptoms, the hallmark of PTSD is that the symptoms persist over time and sometimes even get worse. Therefore, diagnosis of PTSD requires a minimum of four months of continuing symptoms, regardless of when the actual event took place. The symptoms also have to create extreme distress or impair everyday functioning.
There are three classes of PTSD symptoms:
- Reliving symptoms
These include nightmares and ‘flashbacks’. A flashback is when the victim literally relives the experience as if they were there all over again, including the associated feelings of horror, fear and helplessness.
- Avoidance symptoms
Reliving symptoms can be triggered by associating with people, places and even smells, sounds and images related to the trauma. This means that the PTSD sufferer will actively avoid these triggers which can seriously impair their ability to function. Emotional numbness can also lead to PTSD sufferers being unable to relate to other people, leading to social isolation and relationship breakdown.
- Arousal symptoms
Arousal symptoms include irritability, insomnia, a feeling of being constantly on guard and being easily startled. One of the main problems with PTSD is that it rarely comes alone. Over half of men with the illness experience alcohol addiction, with depression, anxiety and drug abuse also common. Women with PTSD often experience depression alongside it.
How counseling can help
There are numerous therapeutic techniques that can be employed to help combat PTSD and different counselors will gravitate towards different methods. Whichever method is used, it is important that a PTSD sufferer chooses a therapist trained in trauma counseling, as general counseling can actually worsen the condition.
Some of the therapies available include:
- Post-trauma counseling
A special type of counseling requiring specialized training and aimed at people who have experienced trauma.
- Critical incident debriefing/psychological debriefing
A method of interrupting the full development of PTSD which is very different to counseling.
- Eye Movement Desensitization/Reprocessing
An approach which integrates elements of psychodynamic therapy, CBT and others.
- VK (Visual-Kinetic) Association/Rewind Technique
Branded a ‘fast phobia cure’, VK Association Technique was created by NLP co-founder Richard Bandler.
In the right hands, hypnotherapy is a powerful approach which can help PTSD sufferers reframe their experiences from a different perspective.
- CBT Trauma Intervention
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) tackles some of the thoughts associated with PTSD which can leave sufferers feeling that they are going mad or are unable to cope with parenting, work etc.
At 2nd Story Counseling, want to help you work through the feelings, emotions and perceptions that you or someone you love may be experience as a result of a traumatic event. Please feel free to call us at 773-598-7797 or send us a confidential note using our online contact form.