You grit your teeth and try to move past it, as you flash back to That Thing, the bad, bad THING that happened just a few days ago.
Or was it a long time ago? Years? It’s hard to tell right this moment. It still feels so fresh.
You have an appointment with your therapist tomorrow, but you don’t look forward to it.
Talking about the event, examining it, examining how you can’t stop reliving it right now … It’s exhausting. Your heart rate goes up every session, and you leave feeling drained.
Even in between sessions, you are still feeling anxious, paranoid, tired, and lonely.
You’re never really sure if the counseling is helping.
But if you don’t go, you might be accused of not trying to get better.
Worse, you might start to believe the accusations. You know it’s not true. No one wants to feel like this. Especially not you.
Learning to live with your post-traumatic stress disorder feels strange. Even the label is weird. You’d heard it before, but never thought it would apply to yourself.
When you’re not even used to it yourself, of course, other people don’t know how to react.
They just don’t understand. Lately, it’s just been easier to avoid people, even if does mean feeling lonelier. It takes so much effort to figure out what to say or do, if you should explain yourself or not.
You get to work, and it’s busy. You can push disturbing recollections of The Event back for a while. Today, anyway.
Yesterday you lost a few minutes of time, just standing there, trying so hard not see those old, but still raw, images again, until a coworker poked your shoulder.
“Where IS your head today?” He asked it playfully, but you still feel guilty that you can’t focus on your job.
The last two medication switches have you in a fog anyway. Am I getting any better? Am I giving the meds enough time?
You jump inside your skin a little bit, as you realize you’ve drifted off again. It’s probably just the lack of sleep. You hope it’s not a bad side effect of the new medication.
When you get home, you try to relax.
Eventually, it’s time for bed. You’re tired to the bone. Hopefully, you won’t dream about The Thing, that horrible EVENT tonight.
You get out of bed only twice on this particular night to make sure the door is locked.
It is. You always lock the door. If only there had been a locked door between me and That Thing.
There’s no use asking “what if,” but you do it anyway.
You sigh. You have an appointment tomorrow. Maybe it’ll really help this time.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Every person experiences Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) differently, but one thing is certain: many people diagnosed with PTSD are not fully satisfied with their current therapy routine.
Things can get better though. There are many options out there.
And no matter what anyone might say, being unhappy with your current treatment DOES NOT mean that you don’t want to get better, or that treatment just won’t work for you.
The key is to go with the best method for your needs.
What is PTSD?
PTSD sometimes develops after exposure to a traumatic event, specifically, that was beyond a typical stressor.
Events that may lead to PTSD could be violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, combat, other forms of violence, and other disturbing or unexpected events.
Signs and symptoms of PTSD include:
- Hypervigilance (often described as paranoia)
- Insomnia or poor quality of sleep
- Night terrors and/or disturbing dreams
- Social isolation, feelings of loneliness
- Avoidance of people, places, and things that remind someone of the trauma
- Risky or self-destructive behaviors
- Feelings of guilt
- Markedly lowered self-esteem or opinions of self-worth
- Irritability, and in some cases, hostility
These symptoms vary between individuals in both range and severity. One person may have a severe lack of sleep, but no nightmares. Another person may experience both, but only sporadically.
PTSD also has high rates of co-existing conditions like anxiety and depression.
You are not alone in dealing with PTSD
PTSD is common in the United States. An estimated 5% of U.S. adults currently live with it.
That may not sound like a lot, but when you look at the United State’s population, you realize that that number represents over 13 million people.
If you’re among those 13 million or think you might be, you are also not alone if you’re unhappy with the treatments you’ve tried.
Traditional treatments usually involve intensive psychotherapy and have a high drop-out rate.
This is most likely part of the avoidance pattern that citizens suffering from PTSD exhibit.
Therapy is centered around talking about the event, its effects on your behavior, and your opinions about yourself in light of the traumatic event. So naturally, it is difficult for people with this disorder to continue with therapy.
However, there are many parts to therapy, ways to supplement it, and different techniques to try.
What are all of my treatment options?
The most common treatments are therapy (usually of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, variety) and medication.
The main goals of therapy are to improve on symptoms, learn coping skills, and regain any lost self-esteem. The primary goal of medication is the manage or eradicate symptoms.
The two are often used together.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) usually involves several 60-90 minute counseling sessions.
You talk through your trauma with your therapist, write out what happened, and then examine all of your thoughts and feelings.
Your therapist will help guide you through your reflections and ways that you’re processing the event. For instance, if you’re blaming yourself for something, your counselor will point out elements that were beyond your control, to help ease feelings of guilt.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged Exposure Therapy usually involves eight to 15 sessions, running about 90 minutes per session.
First, your therapist teaches you breathing techniques to ease or lessen anxiety in the moment.
Then, they’ll ask you to make a list of the things you’ve been avoiding. One at a time, you’ll do exercises to face each one.
After that, you’ll retell your traumatic experience to the therapist, then go home and listen to a recording of yourself.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) might not require you to talk in-depth about your trauma with a therapist.
However, you will still need to think and reflect on it.
EMDR involves thinking about the event(s) that caused the condition while being exposed to a visual or auditory stimulus, like a flashing light or a recording.
Over time, you use visual or auditory cues to associate something more positive when you remember your trauma.
Stress Inoculation Training
Stress Inoculation Training usually takes about three months and is done either by yourself or in a group.
What’s different about stress inoculation therapy is that you don’t have to go into detail about what happened, or focus on the event. Instead, you are learning ways avoid the stress you feel as a result of the trauma.
The training includes learning things like massage, breathing techniques, meditation, and other ways to get your body to release any of the effects it is feeling as a result of your PTSD.
Medication for PTSD Symptoms
The only FDA-approved medications for PTSD are paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).
However, many other medications are used off-label by licensed physicians, like antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta blockers, etc.
Because the goal of medication is to manage symptoms, and those with PTSD experience different symptoms on a case-by-case basis, medication regimens need to be personally tailored for each patient.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAMs) are considered to be less conventional but have wide uses, methods, and applications. For instance, most holistic healing methods are CAMs.
CAMs methods for PTSD do not usually involve trauma recall, so they are becoming more attractive to people who jump ship from the regular therapy regimen.
At least 38% of those with PTSD who were polled have tried CAMs methods, including deep breathing, meditation, chiropractic, massage, yoga, diet-based therapies, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, and homeopathic treatment.
Our role in Complementary and Alternative Medicine for PTSD
Here at True North Wellness, we use holistic treatments for PTSD, primarily involving the use of ketamine.
Like other, more common, PTSD drugs, ketamine use for PTSD is off-label, putting it in the alternative medicine group.
We combine safe, low-dosage ketamine infusions with positive affirmations, music, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and other relaxing treatments, under the supervision of a licensed physician.
“How does ketamine treatment work?”
Ketamine is a dissociative drug, which means that it changes the way you perceive things.
Our patients usually experience dissociation that allows them to view their traumas and burdens in a more unbiased light.
Therefore they are able to take more immediate action to rebuild their lives.
True North Wellness supports this process and practices a technique called Partial Sensory Deprivation to maximize the effectiveness of this experience.
This treatment can also be used alone or in addition to other therapy and treatment techniques.
True North Wellness Center provides individualized care for PTSD
Remember when we explained how PTSD medications need to be individually tailored for each person’s symptoms?
We go beyond that here at True North Wellness Center.
Because we are a holistic treatment center, we treat the person as a whole and do more than symptoms management.
Every person, regardless of which condition they see us for, gets a personally tailored plan.
If you’re seeing us for BOTH PTSD and depression, we can tailor a plan for you that helps with both conditions.
If you’d like a loved one to be present, we can accommodate that, or if you’d prefer for a professional life coach to be with you, you can do things that way too.
Our very first patient sought out Dr. Sortino of True North Wellness because traditional treatments weren’t working for him, and helping that person turn his life around spurred us on in a mission to get alternative treatment to those who aren’t seeing the results they so desperately need in their mental health treatment.
If any part of this article applies to you, go ahead and call us. Consultations are always free, and we are here and ready to listen to YOUR NEEDS.
Or, you can learn more about us here.