Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Trauma can be a debilitating experience, and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) doesn’t necessarily mean effective treatments are soon to follow. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder don’t diminish just because you’re suddenly aware you have it, but knowing you have the condition can lead you on a path to acquiring resources and tools that will help.
PTSD can have lasting impacts on every aspect of your life, including work, home and even your sexual function.
Therapy and other forms of treatment can take a person only so far when dealing with the symptoms associated with PTSD. Let's take a look at some day-to-day components a person looking to cope with the aftereffects of trauma can consider incorporating into their own routine.
Tech’s helping hand
Last year, a design for a smartwatch application called Nightware that wakes people up from post-traumatic stress disorder nightmares received FDA approval. The innovation takes a cue from an operation performed by service animals who nudge or lick sleeping patients awake when the animal recognizes a traumatic nightmare is occurring.
Service animals aren’t right for everybody, however, so this tech aims to do the same thing by analyzing biometric data relating to PTSD symptoms. A gentle vibration or haptic action of the watch disrupts the traumatic nightmare and wakes the person without jarring them into the conscious world.
And this isn’t the first example of tech attempting to fill the post-traumatic stress disorder gap in treatment options.
The Department of Veterans Affairs promotes multiple lifestyle and coaching apps for PTSD treatments that can be used on a phone or other mobile device. The apps also manage other treatments being utilized by the patient, such as keeping medication schedules straight, accessing counseling services and other helpful functions the user might benefit from.
Art therapy has proven effective in treating all types of post-traumatic stress disorder, including personal and combat-related PTSD symptoms.
More standard treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) tend to be the primary focus of care providers. Clinical locations often provide community or otherwise-sponsored art therapy programs, however, in addition to the standard treatment practices made available to PTSD patients. Those evidence-based treatment options don’t yield results for 30 percent of those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and in these cases, art therapy sometimes proves to be a suitable supplemental practice.
Counselors and caseworkers working with people who live with PTSD symptoms frequently find trauma-focused art therapy complementary to standard medical treatments. Working in an artistic medium, people living with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms can embrace a type of mental and emotional processing strategy with visual and mechanical components but with minimal limitations.
PTSD patients often cope with experiences and memories that can be difficult to articulate or put a shape to. The utilization of a nonverbal and experiential medium can help a person struggling with mental or emotional bonds concerning trauma.
Sound therapy leans on the idea that certain auditory stimuli—particularly music—can cause an improvement in mood and/or behavior. Similar to art therapy, it utilizes an intangible sensory medium to help the patient process painful experiences and memories for the purpose of decreasing the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Ambient sounds and music can stimulate parts of the brain, such as damaged nerve pathways. They can then help introduce pleasing or generally beneficial mnemonic elements for coping with and processing traumatic experiences or emotions.
Music-instructed therapies have been found to help with PTSD symptoms as well as cognitive function, but more research is needed to better understand the interactions.
Meditation and mindfulness
Art and sound therapy certainly lend themselves to aspects of this, but meditation is just about the simplest and purest way of practicing mindfulness for the sake of your mental health.
Meditation is an opportunity to explore and exercise parts of your mental "self" that tend to go ignored in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and not losing internal focus due to external stimulation or distracting thoughts.
Meditation can be done in a guided format with apps like Insight Timer or through independent practice and development.
Think of meditation as the "leg day" of your weekly mental exercises, and skip it at your own peril. Other activities that can also help a person experience or achieve mindfulness include yoga, spiritual practices and martial arts. Meditation, though, requires much less space and fewer spatial factors so it’s much more readily accessible in most situations.
Diversifying coping tools
Post-traumatic stress disorder can stem from many different experiences or be clearly traced to singular memory and emotional background. It’s a condition that requires daily management and comes with no simple or predictable solution. Methods that work for some people won’t work for everyone else, and coping techniques that help one day may prove useless on another occasion.
This is why it’s important to have all of your eggs in multiple baskets, so to speak. If talk therapy or your current medication doesn’t seem to be cutting it, at the very least having something to look forward to, like art therapy, might.
What you look forward to doesn’t necessarily have to have a social function. For some people, whether living alone or with others, it might be a tremendous comfort to go to bed knowing that if you start having a horrible, trauma-inspired nightmare, you will be gently woken up by an app on your wearable accessory. Little victories like these are worthy of big celebrations when managing a condition like PTSD.