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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that is triggered by a terrifying event. This disorder is characterized by flashbacks, severe anxiety, nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts related to this event that was either personally experienced or witnessed.

Most people who witness or experience a traumatic event may have temporary difficulty coping with fear and anxiety associated with the traumatic event. Still, within time and with healthy coping skills, these individuals will usually overcome their fear and anxiety. Posttraumatic stress disorder affects approximately eight to ten percent of individuals throughout their lifetime or 7.7 million American adults.

Signs and symptoms associated with PTSD

  • Repetitive, unwanted distressing thoughts and memories related to the traumatic event
  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event (flashbacks)
  • Frightening dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities, and people that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Being easily startled
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability or aggressive outbursts
  • Increased arousal and hypervigilance

Treatment for PTSD, how we can help

Treatment for PTSD revolves around reducing or eliminating the underlying triggers and stress associated with PTSD. This is a highly treatable mental health condition and is best done with a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and the development of healthy coping skills. Untreated PTSD can cause significant impairment in everyday life and can potentially result in worsening psychiatric conditions, self-harm behavior, and even suicidal ideations. 

AKUA Mind & Body PTSD Treatment Program

AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service treatment program that offers a wide range of “east meets west” treatment modalities for many different populations struggling with PTSD and other mental health and substance use disorders. We offer both intensive inpatient programs as well as outpatient treatment. AKUA Mind & Body works diligently with each client and their family to ensure that their PTSD treatment plan is specifically tailored to their needs, and not just their disorder. 

Complex PTSD

Complex posttraumatic stress disorder, also known as CPTSD is similar to PTSD. Instead of witnessing or experiencing one traumatic event, the individual is exposed to repeated trauma over months or years.

Signs and symptoms of CPTSD include those of PTSD with some additional symptoms, which include the following:

  • Unable to regulate emotions
  • Out of body experiences, emotional detachment, and dissociation
  • Guilt or shame
  • Difficulty with interpersonal relationships
  • Distorted perception of abuse, which can turn into an obsession or the need for revenge

What causes PTSD?

Although many veterans may have posttraumatic stress disorder (approximately 30% of individuals who have spent time in combat develop PTSD), this diagnosis can affect anyone who undergoes or witnesses a traumatic experience. The following are traumatic experiences that have been associated with PTSD

  • Natural disasters such as a fire, earthquakes, hurricane
  • A deadly pandemic
  • Physical abuse 
  • Sexual assault
  • Refugee camps
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Witnessing a death
  • Traumatic accident or injury
  • The unexpected loss of a loved one 

Who is at risk for developing PTSD?

  • War veterans
  • First responders
  • Individuals who have inadequate support after the traumatic events
  • Individuals who have poor coping mechanisms
  • Individuals who have a co-occurring mental health disorder
  • Individuals who have borderline personality disorder or dependent personality disorder
  • Individuals who have low self-esteem

PTSD treatment: how we can help

Treatment for PTSD includes both medication management and psychotherapy approaches. It is important to identify and treat any co-occurring disorder associated with PTSD, as many individuals will turn to drug use and alcohol to mask their PTSD symptoms and are at higher risk of developing depression and anxiety. 

The following are psychotherapy approaches used to help treat PTSD:

  • Eye movement desensitization (EMDR)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Hypnosis
  • Play therapy
  • Prolonged exposure therapy

The goal of therapy is for the individual to be able to remember the trauma without the emotional charge that once accompanied the event. By separating the traumatic event from a wide range of negative emotions, the individual can live a healthier life without the intrusion of flashbacks, nightmares, fear, and distressing thoughts. 

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