Everyone experiences a sad, frightening, or downright traumatic event at some point in their life. How we react to it and process the memories of that event varies. About 10% of people who experience trauma develop a stress disorder as a result of that trauma. We call this post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it can cause intense symptoms and have far-reaching consequences. Fortunately, PTSD is often very treatable. Do you have PTSD or do you suspect that you have it? Then let a therapist help you.
When do you have PTSD?
When stress symptoms after a traumatic event do not disappear, persist unnecessarily, or even get worse, we speak of PTSD. PTSD is often associated with traumatic events such as wars, disasters, robberies, accidents, or abuse, but in theory, there is no trauma that is “not bad enough” to cause PTSD. Similarly, a stress disorder can occur after illness, childbirth, the death of a loved one, or even after a relationship breakup or losing a job.
With PTSD, you experience symptoms related to the memories of the trauma: flashbacks, fear or panic, anger, or depressive feelings. Often people with PTSD avoid certain locations or activities that remind them of the trauma. Memories are also suppressed and hidden away as much as possible.
Therapy for PTSD
Treatment for PTSD is often confrontational and emotional. In fact, talking about the trauma and reminiscing are important parts of the treatment. This is not easy for the patient, but it is effective. There are several treatments for PTSD whose success has been scientifically proven.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is one of the best-known treatment techniques for people with PTSD. The therapist asks you to focus on the trauma and at the same time follow his or her hand movements with your eyes. The effect of this is that the memory of the trauma in your brain is moved from ‘long-term memory’ to ‘working memory’, but actually does not get enough space and attention there, because the working memory is also busy with the visual stimuli. As a result, the memory is stored back in long-term memory in an altered, incomplete, or less intense form after the exercise. Thus, in this way, the memories become less overwhelming.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Within cognitive behavioral therapy, the following two methods have also been successfully applied to people with trauma.
- Imaginary exposure: in this, you talk with the therapist about the trauma and the bad memories. Instead of avoiding these memories, you keep talking about them. By learning to talk about it, you get more and more control over the emotions that these memories evoke. As a result, you will be less and less affected by these emotions in everyday life. You will also have less of a tendency to avoid them.
- Narrative exposure: depending on the trauma, it is also possible to focus on the positive aspects of the trauma while talking about it. Here you can also try to place the trauma in the context of the rest of your life and to put the positive effects of it under the microscope. In this way, you ‘rewrite’ the memories, which makes it easier to give the trauma a place.
Professional therapist for PTSD
It goes without saying that every situation, every trauma, and every patient is unique. Moreover, the threshold for seeking help is often very high for people with PTSD. The treatment of PTSD, therefore, requires customization and a very cautious approach. The treatment takes place step by step and is fully adapted to your needs. Initially, the focus will be on your symptoms and you are not expected to talk in detail about the trauma.
Eventually, you will have to process the trauma yourself and that is not an easy process. A therapist will support and guide you in a professional way. With a therapist who specializes in the treatment of trauma, you are in good hands.
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