If you have had a traumatic experience or stressful life event or situation that triggers anxiety, flashbacks, and/or nightmares, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental disorder that can have an adverse effect on your daily life skills and occupational performance.
Fortunately, there is a treatment that can help patients with PTSD return to normal functioning. Occupational therapy is a form of treatment for those with a mental, as well as physical, illness that promotes rehabilitation. In the case of PTSD, it helps the patient relieve stress through the performance of various activities.
PTSD Signs and Symptoms
PTSD typically arises as a delayed response to an exceptionally traumatizing event – for example, war, a disaster, a car accident, or physical or sexual assault. In fact, it often develops after a period of dormancy, within six months or more following the event.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Recurring memories of the stressful event, as mental flashbacks and/or in dreams
- A sense of reliving the stressful event
- Distinct avoidance of a similar event
- Acute anxiety and increased arousal
- A feeling of numbness
- The inability to experience pleasure
Treatment for PTSD
The treatment approach for PTSD is similar to that of anxiety, stress, or depression. First, a therapist will assess the symptoms and the event that may have caused PTSD. The patient, as well as a family member, are interviewed to obtain important details, such as the history of the traumatic event, the patient’s behavior, the patient’s social interactions, occupational performance, level of anxiety or depression, and self-care, among other information.
There are several kinds of psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy, that may be used by an occupational therapist to treat PTSD. These include:
- Cognitive therapy, in which the ways of thinking that are triggering your PTSD – such as, for example, your negative beliefs about yourself or the risk of the traumatic event repeating itself, are discussed with the patient.
- Exposure therapy, which is often coupled with cognitive therapy, helps the patient safely face both situations and memories that they find disturbing, so they can learn to manage them – particularly flashbacks and nightmares – effectively. One method of exposure therapy uses virtual reality programs, allowing the patient to return to the setting of the traumatic experience, facing their fears, and overcoming them.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) combines exposure therapy and a series of guided eye movements (bilateral stimulation or BLS) to alleviate the distress caused by PTSD. During therapy, the patient focuses on the memory while engaging in BLS, then reports whatever new thoughts emerge. The associated thoughts then become the focus of the next round of BLS. The process continues until the patient reports that the original memory is no longer distressing.
In addition to psychotherapy, PTSD patients can be treated with other options, such as group therapy or prescribed medication in the form of antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, or prazosin, which have been found to reduce or suppress nightmares in PTSD patients in several studies.
Treatment for PTSD in Wooster, Ohio
The Behavioral Health Services at Wooster Community Hospital are ready to help you or a loved one with a behavioral disorder you may have, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders. We offer both outpatient and inpatient treatments for mental disorders, and our treatment plans are highly individualized to each patient’s specific needs.
To learn more about our occupational therapy and behavioral health services, call Wooster Community Hospital today at (330) 263-8710 for a free program assessment. We look forward to helping you.