Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop in response to PTSD causes such as extreme trauma. It’s marked by flashbacks, nightmares, and a range of other symptoms. Dealing with PTSD can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to do it without therapy or knowledge of self-help resources that can help.
We’re offering you research-based information that will allow you to understand what you’re experiencing if you’re living with this potentially debilitating condition. The more you know about the different types of PTSD and how to deal with PTSD triggers, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate your way toward improved mental health and increased well-being.
You can learn how to deal with PTSD with the right information and support. You can also recover from your traumatic experience and return to living the full, happy, peaceful life you once knew. Use the 15 tips below on dealing with PTSD to get started on your journey today.
“It’s important to learn about the impact of trauma and what a diagnosis of PTSD means. Not everyone who has had an experience of trauma will meet criteria for PTSD. In some instances, there can be a delayed reaction to trauma which might lead to a PTSD diagnosis some time after the trauma has occurred.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC
1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga
Research has shown us that a routine practice of mindfulness meditation and yoga can help to significantly lessen symptoms of anxiety, depression, and restlessness related to PTSD. Mindful meditation involves focusing your attention on your breath and witnessing your thoughts as they develop.
Through regular meditation and developed yoga practice, you can learn to recognize your thoughts before they take hold of your emotions. Then, you can learn to focus on your breathing and replace negative thoughts with healthier, more beneficial ones.
2. Seek Types of Therapy for PTSD
One of the most important methods for learning how to cope with PTSD symptoms is to seek help from a mental health professional.
There are several types of therapy for PTSD that have all been proven effective in giving you the ability to anticipate, recognize, take action against, and minimize trauma symptoms. Some forms of therapy are more effective in teaching you how to cope with PTSD.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular talk therapy technique that teaches you how to recognize, then change, the negative thought patterns that are causing you distress and emotional harm as a result of your PTSD.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Widely accepted as an extremely effective form of therapy to treat your traumatic experience, EMDR exposes you, in a safe way, to things that you associate with your past trauma. Through that exposure, you can begin to navigate and overcome the traumatic event, by learning how to deal with PTSD triggers in the moment. Thus, you can begin to move forward in your life.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
DBT is a type of CBT where the focus is on attempting to first identify, then change negative thought patterns so you can work toward healthier behavioral changes in your life. Online dialectical behavioral therapy can be used to effectively treat self-destructive behaviors stemming from PTSD and trauma.
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)
CPT is another type of CBT that’s known for its success in treating PTSD. CPT focuses on helping you get out of a cycle where you feel stuck in your thoughts about the traumatic event you experienced.
Prolonged exposure therapy
Yet one more type of cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy helps you gradually become desensitized to the images and memories of your trauma. Research has shown that exposure therapy is effective in treating PTSD. In a safe and controlled environment, with the help of your therapist, you can learn to face the past and the trauma.
Stress inoculation training (SIT)
Stress inoculation training (SIT) is a very specific type of CBT. After learning coping skills, you can focus on new ways that you’ll be able to manage and deal with your stress reactions.
“The best types of therapeutic approaches for PTSD include EMDR, DBT, and CBT. These modalities can help work through trauma and address the symptoms as well as process through the thoughts and feelings attached to the traumatic experiences.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC
3. Find Ways to Self-Soothe
It’s good to realize that the present moment is the only one that you can actually control. You cannot control what happened in the past, just like you can’t directly control future events. The only “real” moment is NOW.
There are a number of ways you can help yourself relax and overcome emerging feelings associated with post-trauma stress. All are helpful in allowing your mind to stay focused on the wonderful present moment. Consider adding some or all of the following to your daily schedule so you can try to enjoy life more.
“Some ways to cope with PTSD include engaging in some form of exercise or movement, meditation practices like guided meditation or deep breathing exercises, and positive affirmations. It’s important to engage in therapy and find support groups that can help you connect with others who are also dealing with PTSD.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC
Essential oils are known to be effective for relieving stress, panic, depression, fear, and anxiety — all of which are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the safe, natural oils include:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
Gently diffuse essential oils into your space and enjoy hours of calming benefits. Just remember that essential oils are concentrated and potent. Always use them according to their instructions.
According to researchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there’s strong evidence that suggests PTSD treatment can benefit from the addition of music therapy.
Taking a warm bath with Epsom salt added to the water can help to relax your muscles, reduce stress, and center on the present moment, all of which can be effective when dealing with PTSD symptoms.
Studies show that magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in humans. It’s known to have analgesic (pain-relieving), anti-arrhythmia (heart normalizing), tocolytic (inhibits labor), anesthetic (numbs pain), cardiovascular, calcium channel-blocking, and anticonvulsant effects.
Magnesium is believed to affect the adrenal glands and the brain’s hypothalamus, both of which have important roles in regulating stress reactions.
Scientists have found that routine journaling may help those with PTSD to better cope with the anxiety, anger, and fear that results from their condition.
Various case reports suggest that massage for post-traumatic stress disorder can help relieve symptoms. According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage helps to alleviate PTSD symptoms by stimulating circulation and the lymphatic system, relaxing muscles, and encouraging calmness.
Research has long shown us that regular exercise can significantly decrease symptoms that are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. It can help improve sleep problems, depression, and anxiety disorder. Of course, exercise is vital for our health on numerous levels and should be included as a permanent, integral part of daily life.
4. Join a Support Group for PTSD
Outside of seeking therapy from a mental health professional, joining a support group for PTSD can be extremely beneficial. It can put you in touch with others who experience the same types of symptoms and feelings that you do, which can be very liberating and comforting.
5. Adopt a Pet for PTSD
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes that having a dog helps to decrease PTSD symptoms — especially loneliness and depression. Dogs are very intelligent, intuitive friends that never stop caring and serving their people. Of course, dog-human relationships can benefit everyone, not just those with post-trauma stress disorder.
Emotional support animals can be helpful in reducing stress and improving your mood. While research clearly points to the efficacy of therapy and medication for PTSD, the benefits of pet ownership are clear, too. While emotional support animals are great, they aren’t protected by the ADA, and therefore, a service animal may be more helpful for you. In fact, psychiatric service dogs are trained to do specific tasks that help people manage their PTSD symptoms.
6. Consider PTSD Medication
PTSD results from imbalanced neurotransmitters in the limbic system of the brain, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight responses. People with post-trauma stress are more likely to feel on-edge and jittery, largely because their fight-or-flight response is out of balance. They can feel seriously threatened in situations where there is no real danger.
Certain medications for PTSD can be used to help keep symptoms at bay. Some types of medications used for PTSD include:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Antidepressants (SSRIs)
- Alpha-1 blockers
These and other medicines might help some people with PTSD feel more “normal,” but it’s important to note that they do nothing to resolve the underlying psychological issues associated with PTSD.
Medication for PTSD is not meant to be a permanent solution. Sometimes, though, short-term use can be helpful in conjunction with therapy to get you through and past particularly troublesome times.
7. Find Support with Talkspace
Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause severe anxiety disorder symptoms in war veterans, first responders, victims of abuse, or anyone else who witnesses or experiences terrifying, traumatic events. Some people begin to self-medicate or use drugs or alcohol to numb their painful symptoms.Fortunately, therapy is hugely effective in treating PTSD, and there are many other methods you can use to help to ease symptoms naturally. If you suffer from the memories of traumatic events, online therapy with Talkspace can teach you ways to cope with PTSD, lessen symptom frequency, and enhance your quality of life. Learn more about how to deal with PTSD today — you don’t have to let post-traumatic stress disorder take over your life.