Health Wise: Getting Help for Trauma

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In the last couple of blogs (here and here), we shared traditional and newer, more unique treatment ideas for anxiety and depression. Those treatments can be applied to other mental health conditions as well.

This week, we wanted to elaborate specifically on treating a very challenging and impairing disorder - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD. PTSD is a condition that shares many features with anxiety and depression, and is a distinct and impairing condition that can come from a wide range of different traumatic experiences and can present in many different ways.

In recent years, we’ve expanded our understanding of trauma and PTSD to include many causes, rather than the traditional mindset that PTSD is reserved for veterans, victims of violence, or those who have come face-to-face with death in some way. We now understand that PTSD can be caused by all sorts of situations where people feel a lack of control, fear, and extraordinary strain. Importantly, we understand that tough situations like a global pandemic can lead to trauma responses, and this is one more reason it’s so vital to discuss treatment for PTSD and trauma-related conditions.

Many anxiety and depression-related treatments can be used for PTSD. There are also more unique treatments that are good to consider. Some of these are listed below.

  • Medication - Antidepressants can help with PTSD, similar to anxiety and depression. Serotonin plays a role in PTSD, and SSRI medications may address this. Some medications, like antihistamines and anxiolytics (e.g. benzodiazepines) may also help with panic/arousal symptoms of PTSD.
  • Therapy - standard talk therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - works well for re-framing negative thoughts patterns in PTSD. Other useful therapy approaches include:
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can be helpful in learning and using mindfulness approaches and de-escalating big emotions.
  • Exposure therapy can help re-experience situations similar/related to the trauma and desensitize the response.
  • Narrative therapy can help as a form of exposure that requires talking through traumatic events.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming) is used to integrate right and left brain hemispheres for full-brain re-processing and healing from trauma. This can be done with light or touch, and can be self-administered after it’s learned. This has been shown as an effective supplement to standard therapy and can be short-term.
  • Nutrition and diet approaches to PTSD can also show effectiveness in symptom reduction, including healthy diet and exercise overall, but especially addressing gut imbalances and fiber intake. Some studies have shown increasing fiber in diet can help with PTSD and other mental health conditions. Similarly, some vitamins, such as magnesium, have also been explored in their possible effects on PTSD. Magnesium may help with restlessness and sleep issues, and other supplements like melatonin can help with sleep problems as well, something many people with PTSD struggle with.

We are so grateful that research on treatments for mental health continues to grow. Each individual is unique, and treatment approaches need to cater to this uniqueness and to each far and wide for techniques that can be used alone or in combination. The result is a customized treatment with greater chances for healing! At Still Waters we do offer medication and other therapies, including EMDR, for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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