Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition in which you may find that it’s difficult to move on with your life after a particularly traumatic or threatening experience. The trauma may be something that happened to you directly or something that you witnessed. You may keep reliving the experience in your mind while feeling intensely fearful or anxious. You may experience insomnia or many different unpleasant emotions, and these symptoms may continue to disrupt your life for months or years.
If symptoms of PTSD aren’t treated, you may continue to be anxious, fearful, or easily startled. You may have mood swings and difficulty concentrating, and you may try to relieve these unpleasant feelings with alcohol or other mind-altering substances. You could also try to cope by developing an eating disorder, or you may have suicidal thoughts or actions. Fortunately, PTSD is a treatable condition, which is mainly treated with psychotherapy, also called talk therapy. Several types of talk therapy may help to improve the symptoms of PTSD.
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Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy which helps you to recognize patterns of thinking that are keeping you stuck. It can help you to get past negative thinking and self-blame regarding the trauma you have experienced.
In the treatment of PTSD, CPT can help you to make connections between thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. You may have inaccurate thoughts about the trauma you’ve gone through, and in CPT you learn new skills that help you to evaluate whether your thoughts and beliefs are supported by facts. As you challenge your beliefs, you can learn to modify beliefs that aren’t helpful to you in the present.
Trauma-related memories can cause intense, turbulent emotions. The goal of prolonged exposure therapy is to help you to gradually become less reactive to your memories, which are situations which pose no danger to you in the present. You may feel strongly that you want to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma, but doing this keeps you in a state of feeling fearful.
In prolonged exposure therapy, your therapist will help you gradually approach trauma-related memories and feelings. You’ll learn breathing techniques to manage anxiety, and you’ll gradually face thoughts and situations that are anxiety-provoking. Using this method, you improve your ability to face what you fear the most and learn new ways of coping with distressing feelings.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of therapy which uses some of the techniques of exposure therapy and combines gradual exposure with focused eye movements. It’s thought to be effective because you relive traumatic experiences while your attention is diverted. Since your focus is not completely on the memory, your psychological reaction to the trauma isn’t as strong, which gradually reduces the intensity of your reaction to memories of the trauma.
EMDR is done over the course of several sessions. You and your therapist will decide what traumatic memories should be treated using this method, and you’ll learn different stress management techniques to help you cope with your emotions. As you focus on a traumatic experience, your therapist will use bilateral stimulation, which includes eye movements and possibly tapping. As time passes, your emotions associated with the trauma gradually become less intense and your reaction toward the memory of the trauma can improve.
Healing from PTSD
Untreated PTSD can make it difficult to function in your day-to-day life. Both individual and group therapy can help you to heal from this condition.
These different forms of psychotherapy can help you to process what happened and to gain control of your emotional reactions. Talk to your therapist to discuss what kind of therapy or group of therapies would be most helpful for you.
If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, please call us at (310) 455-5258 or submit the form below to learn more about our trauma treatment programs in Los Angeles.