PTSD & C-PTSD Treatment
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can occur in people who have experienced a shocking, overwhelming, or scary event. These feared events trigger a cascade of changes in the brain and body. As a result, they cause the typical “fight or flight” (or freeze) response. This response is an activation of the sympathetic nervous system. It is the body’s natural mechanism for responding to dangerous situations. This response helps protect a person from harm.
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8% of the US population will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress symptoms can be categorized by four main symptom clusters. First is the re-experiencing of the event(s). The second is hyperarousal. The third cluster is avoidance. The final cluster is negative changes in cognition and mood. Here are some typical examples of experiences you may have within each cluster.
Re-experiencing / Intrusions:
- Repeated, disturbing, and unwanted memories of the stressful event
- Nightmares or disturbing dreams related to the event
- Thinking about the event when you don’t mean to
- Pictures or memories popping into your head
- Acting or feeling like you are back at that time
- Waves of strong emotions about the event
- Feeling irritable and angry
- Being jumpy and easily startled
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Trouble concentrating
- Reminders causing physical reactions such as sweating, difficulty breathing, nausea, or pounding heart
- Feeling watchful and on-guard, hypervigilant
Avoidance / Constriction:
- Avoiding letting yourself get upset when you think about the event or are reminded of it
- Feeling as if it hadn’t happened or it wasn’t real
- Staying away from reminders of the event
- Trying not to think about it
- Being aware that you have still have a lot of feelings about it but do not want to deal with it
- Feeling numb
- Trying to remove it from your memory
- Avoiding talking about it
Negative changes in Cognitions and Mood:
- Distorted feelings of guilt and self-blame
- Inability to remember important aspects of the event (related to dissociation)
- Exaggerated negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad” or “no one can be trusted”)
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
More About PTSD
These experiences are some common manifestations of an individual’s trauma response. Sometimes a person won’t display symptoms for months or years following trauma. This could be a sign of a “delayed onset” of symptoms.
Most people who experience a traumatic event or events will have some initial stress reactions that occur along a spectrum of severity. But, many will recovery over time. Those who continue to experience debilitating traumatic stress symptoms may be diagnosed with PTSD.
Often, the person experiencing the overwhelming event is the one who develops PTSD. But, the disorder can manifest in those who witness the event or hear about the event through the news or other external sources. First responders or individuals in the helping professions such as therapists and social workers can also develop traumatic-stress symptoms through a process known as “vicarious traumatization”. This is because they’re exposed to the traumatic experiences of others they encounter at work.
It’s also important to note that these reactions are normal and protective after experiencing an overwhelming event. For whatever reason, they remain stuck and need professional intervention to address and resolve. Without treatment, unresolved PTSD symptoms can lead to:
- Social isolation
- Substance abuse
- And other mental health conditions such as depression.
PTSD Treatment in Palm Beach County, FL
The main first-line therapies for PTSD are psychotherapy and medication. But, medication is most effective in managing symptoms. Yet, it does not do much to resolve the underlying traumatic memory associated with the event. The gold standard in treating PTSD is Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT). As well as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). This is for adults and children per research and clinical guidelines. They have the most empirical evidence backing their safety and effectiveness.
Within TF-CBT, the two main therapy techniques are Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE). Both operate under the principle of reducing symptoms through the process of habituation. This is the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to an often-repeated stimulus.
EMDR is based on the principle that traumatic stress symptoms are the result of maladaptively-stored, unprocessed memories. In EMDR therapy, the goal is to identify the memories at the root of the trauma symptoms and reprocess them to an adaptive resolution. Thereby eliminating the client’s distress and impairment. See our page on EMDR.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is otherwise known as “complex trauma”, C-PTSD, or Complex PTSD. It is a condition that has similarities to PTSD. But, it often reflects a history of more severe and prolonged trauma exposure. It usually starts in childhood, and often with attachment injuries, neglect, and poor emotional coping. The term was first coined by Dr. Judith Herman in the 90s in her book, Trauma, and Recovery. She described a very different presentation than the classic PTSD symptomology.
With C-PTSD, there are symptoms present from the same four clusters mentioned above. But, there are also (1) relationship disturbances, and (2) a negative self-concept or identity. As well as, (3) emotional dysregulation. With C-PTSD, effective treatment is often slower and incorporates a phased approach. The first phase is to develop safety with the therapist and learn skills to manage emotions and create stability. The second phase is to reprocess traumatic memories. Then, the third is to reintegrate into society and create the life you deserve. That you were prevented from having had it not been for your traumatic experiences.
Some mental health diagnoses that are reflective of complex trauma include:
- Borderline personality disorder (and other personality disorders)
- Dissociative disorders
- And somatoform disorders
Schedule an Appointment for PTSD & Complex PTSD Treatment in Delray Beach, FL
At Mangrove Therapy Group we believe you can escape from the mental prison of your trauma. You can resolve your debilitating post-traumatic stress symptoms. All therapists at Mangrove Therapy Group are dedicated and trained. We are experienced in treating individuals with simple trauma presentations. This includes single events to those with more complex, messy trauma histories. Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled trauma therapists.
- Read our blog article on the Cumulative Nature of Trauma
- Learn more about EMDR therapy
- Start overcoming your past!