Most cases of PTSD can be treated with medication and/or psychotherapy. Meditation and a variety of alternative therapies can also be beneficial.
Support from family and peers is important, and early emphasis needs to be placed on establishing a sense of safety.
For some, getting better means that the trauma stops terrifying the person who is affected by PTSD. Desensitising procedures can help face fears and the terrible memories so that they no longer intrude.
For others, or once the memories are controlled, getting better means learning to manage and live with low moods, emotional withdrawal, avoidance and hypervigilance. PTSD cannot be cured, but the intervals between episodes can be lengthened.
One of the biggest aids to recovery is to acknowledge that you have been through a traumatic time, and allow yourself time and space to recover.
Pay particular attention to your lifestyle choices. Allow plenty of time for rest, relaxation and meditation, eat healthy foods, and cut back on stimulants such as coffee and chocolate. Listen to soothing music or schedule regular physical exercise such as walking, cycling, tai chi or gardening.
You might find it useful to impose some structure in your day, particularly around your sleeping schedule, or return to normal routines fairly soon. It’s often helpful to seek out friends and people you care about.
Avoid making life-changing decisions until things settle down considerably. Your thinking is likely to be affected, but try to retain control of smaller decisions so you can gradually rebuild your confidence and competence.
If things don’t start to improve after a couple of weeks, seek professional help. Your GP is usually a good place to start, but if you’re not satisfied with the treatment offered, seek a further opinion or check your local mental health centre. Social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists can also be a great help.
Treatment depends on your individual symptoms, but usually includes lifestyle changes as suggested above, psychological interventions and/or medications. Meditation, walking and other relaxing activities that don’t have to be done ‘right’ can be among the most effective long-term self-medications.
Cognitive behavioural treatments include:
- Education and information about the symptoms of PTSD, the role of avoidance and the influence of thoughts and fears;
- Anxiety management, such as slow breathing and relaxation;
- Exposure to trauma-related stimuli; and
- Changing thoughts and fears about the traumatic event.
- Psychotherapy which allows you to speak, draw, play, or write about the event is often helpful.
- Behavior modification techniques and cognitive therapy may help reduce fears and worries.
- Medication may be useful to deal with agitation, anxiety, or depression.
The symptoms of PTSD may last for months or decades. They may be episodic or constant. The earlier PTSD is diagnosed and treated, the less long-term damage and suffering are likely.