Coping with PTSD After Therapy

Coping with PTSD After Therapy

By learning and using relaxation techniques, you can calm yourself whenever you encounter PTSD-related stress

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that can occur when a person experiences or witnesses a life-threatening event.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that the following events could lead to PTSD:

  • War
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Car accidents
  • Act of terrorism
  • Fire
  • Mugging or robbery
  • Witnessing a homicide
  • Natural disasters (hurricane, tornado, earthquake and etc.)

Not everyone who lives through a traumatic event develops PTSD. Also, some people have a hard time coping with this condition, but they get better with a good support system, time and taking care of themselves. However, some people exhibit symptoms that worsen over time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common signs of PTSD include the following problems:

  • Recurrent distressful memories of the event
  • Reliving the experience as if it were occurring again (flashbacks)
  • Nightmares about the incident
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Severe emotional distress triggered by a reminder of the event
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling detached from others people.
  • Outbursts of emotions
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Being easily startled

Unfortunately, many people who experience PTSD find maladaptive ways to cope with their symptoms. Often, they will turn to alcohol and/or drugs to alleviate their troubling symptoms or to forget the experience, if only for a short time. While this act may seem like a good idea, turning to substances only complicates the situation even more. Relying on substances to deal with PTSD will only lead to addiction, and people with both PTSD and addiction have co-occurring disorders. This diagnosis means that people must deal with both problems in and after treatment. Fortunately, many drug treatment facilities know how to help people overcome these problems, which underscores the value of getting professional help when dealing with these issues. Trying to go it alone often leads to larger problems.

After Therapy, Now What?

After you leave treatment for addiction and PTSD, you will continue your journey of recovery from addiction and PTSD. Therapy for PTSD often takes longer than addiction treatment, because experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event is life changing. Ask anyone who lived through the World Trade Center bombings or the concentration camps of World War II: it takes time and effort to process the memories and to deal with the accompanying emotions. Fortunately, you can continue the healing process even after addiction treatment in the following ways:

Therapy for PTSD

You will probably continue some sort of therapy to deal with your condition and to deal with your symptoms when they flare up.

The following types of therapy address PTSD:

  • Cognitive therapy deals with the thoughts related to trauma and its aftermath. You will learn to identify thoughts that distress you, such as blaming yourself for the trauma. Then, you will replace those negative, inaccurate thoughts will more accurate ones.
  • Exposure therapy deals with not only the thoughts, but also the feelings related to trauma. By talking about the event over and over (being exposed to it repeatedly), you will learn not to fear the memories. In a controlled setting (like the therapist’s office), you will learn that emotions cannot hurt you.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – While thinking about the traumatic experience, you will focus on eye movements to process disturbing memories and feelings so you can replace them with more adaptive beliefs.

Your therapist will explain the steps of therapy and why they are used; they will not spring any activities on you that would cause stress or anxiety.

Support Groups for PTSD

Talking about your story with other survivors can provide encouragement, insight, accountability and healing. On the other hand, isolating yourself will only reinforce your feelings of distance and detachment. You may have to try out several groups before you find one that works for you, and that’s OK. Be persistent and your work will pay off.

Practice Relaxation for PTSD

One of the hallmarks of PTSD is overwhelming anxiety. By learning and using relaxation techniques, you can calm yourself whenever you encounter stress.

Activities like listening to music, spending time outdoors, practicing yoga or meditation and deep breathing exercises can all help you cope with PTSD.

Technology for PTSD Treatment

Many online support groups help people with PTSD. Most of those groups are anonymous and free, so you can easily take advantage of them. In addition, the National Center for PTSD created an app for Android phones that provides reliable information on PTSD, tools for tracking your symptoms and ideas to handle stress. Because the app is on your phone, it’s easily accessible whenever you need it.

You and your therapist will likely discuss other options for coping with PTSD after therapy ends. Keep in mind that healing is a process that takes time. You will feel good again if you keep working.

Getting Help for Your Addiction or PTSD

If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD and/or an addiction, we can help. You can call us anytime, because our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to talk with you about your symptoms. They will also recommend options to treat your symptoms. Neither addiction nor PTSD will go away on its own, so don’t be afraid to ask for help; call us today for the assistance you need.

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