PTSD Part 4: Treatments and Lifestyle Changes
Treatments For PTSD
By now, you should have a better understanding of what post-traumatic
stress disorder is, the causes, and how to know if it is something you
are suffering from it. The next obvious thing to cover is what you can
do about it.
Here are some different treatment options available for this type of
One thing to remember is that like any other anxiety disorder, you might
need to use a variety of treatments in order to be able to handle your
PTSD symptoms. One good thing to start with is therapy. Even if you are
trying lifestyle remedies discussed in the next section and are taking
medication, psychotherapy is still very important.
The therapist you meet with should specialize in post-traumatic stress
disorder and other forms of anxiety, along with depression as many
people have depression alongside PTSD. They will determine the best type
of therapy for you, whether that is prolonged exposure to what is
causing your flashbacks, to trying cognitive behavioral therapy.
To make treatment most beneficial for you, you need to be consistent
with it, and also follow the therapist’s other instructions, from taking
medications to determining what is triggering your side effects.
Medications - You may also be asked to take medications for your PTSD. These are
frequently recommended alongside therapy, as people with severe anxiety
need both in order to help with their side effects. If you are getting
nightmares or flashbacks on a regular basis, you will likely want to
take medications that can help reduce them. Prazosin is often prescribed
for this purpose.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are also prescribed
often for people with PTSD, as well as other anxiety disorders. These
can help you deal with your PTSD symptoms and any depression that you
are also experiencing at the same time.
Some medication names you might recognize include:
Trigger Avoidance - In general, avoidance of situations that trigger your flashbacks are
seen as a symptom of PTSD, but this can also sometimes be a treatment
option. This is not often something you will do forever, but after first
being diagnosed, it is good to reduce those flashbacks and panic attacks
as much as possible until the other treatment options are more
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Flashbacks
In addition to these treatments, like medications and seeing a
therapist, there are also some lifestyle changes you can make that will
help you to deal with your PTSD and the side effects from it. Continue
trying a different combination of treatment options, both from your
therapist and what you can do at home, until you figure out what works
best for you.
Learn How to Ground Yourself.
Grounding yourself is vital to dealing with an anxiety disorder like
post-traumatic stress disorder. This can help you to get back to reality
during moments when you have flashbacks or you feel something similar is
about to happen. Grounding techniques rely on using your different
senses to help you feel part of the current moment.
Some grounding techniques include:
Listening to Music – Use your sense of hearing to listen o something
that will help to ground you. This should preferably be music that
relaxes you, instead of gets you all hyped up. It can either be a
favorite song, or simply relaxing music that will let you shift your
focus from the fears or bad memories, to what is currently happening.
Holding something in your hand – You can also ground yourself by using
your sense of touch. This can be by holding any object that lets you
focus on how something feels physically, instead of letting your mind
take over and bring you to a dark place.
Find Something Around You that has a Specific Feeling to it
it, from a soft, plastic spiky ball, to running your hands through
paperclips on your desk. Some people find that keeping a rubber band
around their wrist and snapping it a few times works best.
Tasting Something Bitter or Sour – For some people, the sensation of a
bold taste is what helps to keep them grounded. Not just any flavor, but
something that is sour or bitter. You can keep a bag of sour candy in
your desk, or bite into an orange or a lemon.
Looking at Your Surroundings – If you are more of a visual person, then
opening your eyes and taking in your surroundings might be what works
best for you. Find any visual that will keep you in the moment, like
watching your dogs sleep or looking out the window at whatever view you
Smelling Something Fragrant – Lastly, you can use your sense of smell to
your advantage. Keep something nearby that is highly fragrant to keep
yourself grounded, like peppermint, lavender, or lilac. This might be in
the form of an essential oil diffuser at home, or even a strong-smelling
air freshener in your car.
Write in a Journal Daily - Journaling is important for many reasons when you have PTSD, not to
mention with other mental illnesses. You should have a journal that you
enjoy writing in, as this helps to encourage you to use it on a regular
basis. Try to get a journal small enough that fits into your purse, bag,
or even laptop case. Get some nice writing utensils as well.
With the journal, you want to write in it at least once a day, or
whenever the mood strikes you. It can help you re-focus your mind when
you feel a panic attack or flashback coming on, and also gives you
something to provide to your therapist when you have trouble remembering
different events that have occurred.
Another important benefit of journaling with PTSD is that you can often
find patterns on days that were hardest for you, figuring out what is
triggering your flashbacks.
Any time you have dissociation, panic attacks or flashbacks – write what
happened, what you were doing, who you were with, and any other details
you remember how you are feeling each day – At least once a day, just record how you
are feeling, whether you are having a good, bad, or neutral day.
Focus on What Has Helped – Did you notice that when you had early warning signs
of a flashback, smelling something like peppermint helped to ground you?
Definitely write that down for future reference.
Even if you just use the journal as something to do when you can’t stop
remembering the traumatic events that caused your PTSD, it can be very
useful in your recovery period.
Find a Good Support System - Another vital lifestyle change to make when you have post-traumatic
stress disorder is to make sure you have a really good support system.
You don’t have to tell everyone you know about your mental illness, but
you should have one or multiple people you trust with this information.
Having a good support system lets you have someone you can always turn
to on the bad days, someone who encourages you to seek treatment when it
is needed, and someone who knows how to ground you and get you back to
reality during the worst flashbacks. This understanding is crucial when
you are already dealing with a lot of negative feelings and emotions.
Some people will prefer going to a support group with others who have
PTSD or who went through a similar traumatic event, while others want to
just have one or two people they can trust with this information. It is
up to you to decide what works best for you as far as a good support
Focus on Your Physical Health:
Lastly, try to focus more on your physical health as you are also
working to improve your mental health. Your physical health can make a
large impact on how you feel on a daily basis, from exercise to what you
eat or drink. Here are some tips to be in peak physical condition so
that you can start finding relief for your post-traumatic stress
Eat a healthy diet – To start with, you should be fueling your body with
plenty of vitamins and minerals through your food. You can feel a lot
better physically and mentally when you choose foods that you enjoy, but
are also good for you. Focus on eating a lot of fruits, vegetables,
whole grains, nuts, seeds, and anything that you feel good eating.
Avoid stimulants – Unfortunately, there are stimulants that can be
hurting you and actually triggering your panic attacks. This includes
caffeine and sugar, not to mention alcohol and cigarettes. Try to reduce
how much caffeine and sugar you consume and see how you feel.
Exercise regularly – You have heard this before, but it bears repeating:
you need to get regular exercise. This goes for everyone, but
particularly someone with anxiety disorders like PTSD. The exercise can
boost your energy and mood by releasing endorphins, plus it gives you
something else to focus on and helps to ground you.
Focus on self-care – Self-care is also important for your physical and
mental health. This includes making sure you are taking care of
yourself, such as your personal hygiene, are feeling confident in your
appearance, and are working hard to make sure you are spending time with
friends and loved ones.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious anxiety disorder that you
should never just ignore and hope it goes away. There are many treatment
options available for you to help you improve your quality of life.
Other PTSD Articles in This Series: