National PTSD Awareness Day is recognized annually on June 27. This day was initially recognized by the United States Senate in 2010. The Senate designated the entire month of June as PTSD Awareness Month in 2014. The purpose of PTSD Awareness Day is to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and its effective treatments. Organizations that employ individuals at risk to develop PTSD due to the nature of the work, such as law enforcement agencies and the military, focus on educating their employees or patients on the symptoms and treatments of PTSD. This is done in the hopes that more people are knowledgeable about PTSD, and more people will be likely to seek treatment and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. The United States Department of Defense plays a large role in participating in National PTSD Awareness Day.
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects approximately 8% of the population in the United States. It affects both men and women from different backgrounds. What is traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another; it is so important to raise awareness about the different symptoms and consequences of enduring or witnessing a traumatic event or situation. Post-traumatic stress treatments have come so far over the past decades. Multiple new evidence-based treatments are available, and more therapists around the country are specializing in these modalities.
Common post-traumatic stress symptoms may include recurrent distressing nightmares related to the traumatic event or intense psychological distress to internal or external cues that symbolize or remind the individual of the original trauma. The individual may begin to persistently avoid external reminders of the trauma (colors, people, and places) and/or also attempt to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, and feelings associated with the traumatic event. As evidenced, PTSD symptoms can be life-altering and extremely challenging to manage. Thankfully, PTSD does not have to be a lifelong struggle. There are a variety of helpful trauma treatments, including EMDR and cognitive behavioral therapy.
What happens when a big life struggle or challenge occurs? You may feel stuck and like nobody understands you and your emotions. Hopefully, you may consider seeking out a therapist that feels safe and comfortable to you. Talk therapy can be a great tool for many of life’s problems. When trauma occurs and becomes quite debilitating or PTSD symptoms arise, talk therapy is no longer as effective. There will probably be a point in which the client feels “stuck” and the therapy is no longer progressing. This is because trauma happens deep in the brain and body. More effective trauma treatments are available when this occurs. These treatments focus on settling the nervous system, reprocessing the traumatic event, and making the client feel safe again.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is one of the most effective trauma treatment modalities. The client focuses on distressing feelings and images related to the traumatic memory while doing rapid eye movements with the assistance of a therapist. Over time, the feelings of distress decline over time as the memory is reprocessed.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, such as prolonged exposure and cognitive processing, is based on treating negative beliefs related to the trauma. One specific type of this therapy is trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT). It focuses on helping children and adolescents with trauma. TF-CBT is a conjoint psychotherapy method which focuses on educating the client and parents/guardians about various trauma symptoms and how to understand them. Stress management and affect modulation skills are also addressed. The child or adolescent is taught relaxation techniques that can help them deal with distressing memories or images. Over time, the client will create a trauma narrative and develop healthy cognitive patterns related to their traumatic experience.
PTSD does not have to be a lifelong disorder. There are many effective treatment modalities to treat PTSD symptoms and the distress it causes. One of the most promising factors of these treatment types is that they do not take years and years to work; results from EMDR and cognitive behavioral treatments can show up within a few months.
If you are interested in learning more about PTSD treatment, visit the United States Department of Veterans Affairs at www.ptsd.va.gov for more resources and information.