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PTSD Part 4: Treatments and Lifestyle Changes

Treatments For PTSD

By now, you should have a better understanding of what post-traumatic stress disorder is, the causes, and how to know if it is something you are suffering from it. The next obvious thing to cover is what you can do about it.
Here are some different treatment options available for this type of anxiety disorder.

Therapy - One thing to remember is that like any other anxiety disorder, you might need to use a variety of treatments in order to be able to handle your PTSD symptoms. One good thing to start with is therapy. Even if you are trying lifestyle remedies discussed in the next section and are taking medication, psychotherapy is still very important.  The therapist you meet with should specialize in post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of anxiety, along with depression as many people have depression alongside PTSD. They will determine the best type of therapy for you, whether that is prolonged exposure to what is causing your flashbacks, to trying cognitive behavioral therapy.  To make treatment most beneficial for you, you need to be consistent with it, and also follow the therapist’s other instructions, from taking medications to determining what is triggering your side effects.

Medications - You may also be asked to take medications for your PTSD. These are frequently recommended alongside therapy, as people with severe anxiety need both in order to help with their side effects. If you are getting nightmares or flashbacks on a regular basis, you will likely want to take medications that can help reduce them. Prazosin is often prescribed for this purpose.  Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are also prescribed often for people with PTSD, as well as other anxiety disorders. These can help you deal with your PTSD symptoms and any depression that you are also experiencing at the same time.  Some medication names you might recognize include:

  • Prozac

  • Celexa

  • Paxil

  • Lexapro

  • Zoloft

Trigger Avoidance - In general, avoidance of situations that trigger your flashbacks are seen as a symptom of PTSD, but this can also sometimes be a treatment option. This is not often something you will do forever, but after first being diagnosed, it is good to reduce those flashbacks and panic attacks as much as possible until the other treatment options are more effective.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Flashbacks

In addition to these treatments, like medications and seeing a therapist, there are also some lifestyle changes you can make that will help you to deal with your PTSD and the side effects from it. Continue trying a different combination of treatment options, both from your therapist and what you can do at home, until you figure out what works best for you.
Learn How to Ground Yourself. Grounding yourself is vital to dealing with an anxiety disorder like post-traumatic stress disorder. This can help you to get back to reality during moments when you have flashbacks or you feel something similar is about to happen. Grounding techniques rely on using your different senses to help you feel part of the current moment. Some grounding techniques include:

Listening to Music – Use your sense of hearing to listen o something that will help to ground you. This should preferably be music that relaxes you, instead of gets you all hyped up. It can either be a favorite song, or simply relaxing music that will let you shift your focus from the fears or bad memories, to what is currently happening.
Holding something in your hand – You can also ground yourself by using your sense of touch. This can be by holding any object that lets you focus on how something feels physically, instead of letting your mind take over and bring you to a dark place.

Find Something Around You that has a Specific Feeling to it - Touch it, from a soft, plastic spiky ball, to running your hands through paperclips on your desk. Some people find that keeping a rubber band around their wrist and snapping it a few times works best.

Tasting Something Bitter or Sour – For some people, the sensation of a bold taste is what helps to keep them grounded. Not just any flavor, but something that is sour or bitter. You can keep a bag of sour candy in your desk, or bite into an orange or a lemon.

Looking at Your Surroundings – If you are more of a visual person, then opening your eyes and taking in your surroundings might be what works best for you. Find any visual that will keep you in the moment, like watching your dogs sleep or looking out the window at whatever view you currently have.

Smelling Something Fragrant – Lastly, you can use your sense of smell to your advantage. Keep something nearby that is highly fragrant to keep yourself grounded, like peppermint, lavender, or lilac. This might be in the form of an essential oil diffuser at home, or even a strong-smelling air freshener in your car.

Write in a Journal Daily - Journaling is important for many reasons when you have PTSD, not to mention with other mental illnesses. You should have a journal that you enjoy writing in, as this helps to encourage you to use it on a regular basis. Try to get a journal small enough that fits into your purse, bag, or even laptop case. Get some nice writing utensils as well.

With the journal, you want to write in it at least once a day, or whenever the mood strikes you. It can help you re-focus your mind when you feel a panic attack or flashback coming on, and also gives you something to provide to your therapist when you have trouble remembering different events that have occurred.

Another important benefit of journaling with PTSD is that you can often find patterns on days that were hardest for you, figuring out what is triggering your flashbacks.

Any time you have dissociation, panic attacks or flashbacks – write what happened, what you were doing, who you were with, and any other details you remember how you are feeling each day – At least once a day, just record how you are feeling, whether you are having a good, bad, or neutral day.

Focus on What Has Helped – Did you notice that when you had early warning signs of a flashback, smelling something like peppermint helped to ground you? Definitely write that down for future reference.  Even if you just use the journal as something to do when you can’t stop remembering the traumatic events that caused your PTSD, it can be very useful in your recovery period.

Find a Good Support System - Another vital lifestyle change to make when you have post-traumatic stress disorder is to make sure you have a really good support system. You don’t have to tell everyone you know about your mental illness, but you should have one or multiple people you trust with this information.  Having a good support system lets you have someone you can always turn to on the bad days, someone who encourages you to seek treatment when it is needed, and someone who knows how to ground you and get you back to reality during the worst flashbacks. This understanding is crucial when you are already dealing with a lot of negative feelings and emotions.  Some people will prefer going to a support group with others who have PTSD or who went through a similar traumatic event, while others want to just have one or two people they can trust with this information. It is up to you to decide what works best for you as far as a good support system goes.

Focus on Your Physical Health:

Lastly, try to focus more on your physical health as you are also working to improve your mental health. Your physical health can make a large impact on how you feel on a daily basis, from exercise to what you eat or drink. Here are some tips to be in peak physical condition so that you can start finding relief for your post-traumatic stress disorder:
Eat a healthy diet – To start with, you should be fueling your body with plenty of vitamins and minerals through your food. You can feel a lot better physically and mentally when you choose foods that you enjoy, but are also good for you. Focus on eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and anything that you feel good eating.

Avoid stimulants – Unfortunately, there are stimulants that can be hurting you and actually triggering your panic attacks. This includes caffeine and sugar, not to mention alcohol and cigarettes. Try to reduce how much caffeine and sugar you consume and see how you feel.

Exercise regularly – You have heard this before, but it bears repeating: you need to get regular exercise. This goes for everyone, but particularly someone with anxiety disorders like PTSD. The exercise can boost your energy and mood by releasing endorphins, plus it gives you something else to focus on and helps to ground you.

Focus on self-care – Self-care is also important for your physical and mental health. This includes making sure you are taking care of yourself, such as your personal hygiene, are feeling confident in your appearance, and are working hard to make sure you are spending time with friends and loved ones.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious anxiety disorder that you should never just ignore and hope it goes away. There are many treatment options available for you to help you improve your quality of life.


Other PTSD Articles in This Series:






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