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PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It affects as much as 8% of the general population and 17% of the military population (reference). Last week I discussed a few self-help strategies for dealing with PTSD this week I'd like to talk about the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. It is often the first intervention that will be offered as it's easy and non-invasive and has been found to be effective for many who struggle with PTSD(reference).
Please remember that I am an author and researcher, my key role is to filter through the mountains of information available and bring the best of it to you. I do not and can not offer medical advice. If you suspect that you or a loved one is dealing with PTSD please seek professional help immediately. If you are considering suicide, or you believe a loved one is considering it, please call for help now. As I've said before, we can't let the trolls win this battle and 1 suicide is 1 too many. #22soldiers a day
What is it?
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CBT is a type of psychotherapy that involves talking to a trained professional, not a banana, who will guide you to uncover unhealthy attitudes, thought patterns and feelings(reference). These attitudes, thoughts and feelings are likely making your PTSD worse by encouraging the negative feelings that the PTSD brings on. It is possible that they aren't even related to the cause of your PTSD, they are simply feeding it with negative behaviors and emotions. By dealing with them, you are taking a step towards balance and healing.
For instance, if you suffer from low self-esteem and you have PTSD, CBT can help you understand and correct the wrong thought patterns that lead to your low self-esteem. The correction of the thought patterns that led to your low self-esteem will help you be more self-aware which can help you find healing for your PTSD. It doesn't matter if your low self-esteem didn't come from the same thing that caused your PTSD, correcting those wrong thought patterns can still help you because you are an interrelated whole made up of many interconnected parts.
How does it work?
When you engage in CBT with a professional counselor, they'll guide you to identify any false or negative patterns in your thoughts and attitudes and work with you to help you see the truth(reference). Your counselor will then work with you to correct them by helping you to craft new positive and true thoughts and feelings. Often, your counselor will assign you homework to do between sessions that involve reflection and journaling to help you further. There is an excellent article here(reference) that goes in more depth than I can.
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To build on my previous example of low self-esteem. If you believe that your work has no value your counselor will work with you to find the value in your work. Your counselor will then help you to replace your negative thoughts about your work with more positive ones and may assign you homework of reflecting on the value of what you do, and, possibly, how you can make it more valuable in your own eyes.
CBT is not meant to be ongoing(reference). You and your counselor will set goals and work towards them. Periodically you will both reassess those goals and decide together when you have met them. The counselor's goal is to teach you to do this for yourself and when you both feel you have reached that goal you can choose to end treatment or continue it if you feel you still need it.
Is it effective?
CBT has been used in the treatment of PTSD with success for a long time with good results. It has been found to lower PTSD scores effectively even when the person receiving treatment suffers from an additional mental illness. It is often used in conjunction with other treatments such as medication and other types of therapy such as hypnosis and supportive therapy. Success also depends on the involvement of the person receiving therapy, an involved patient who is actively seeking healing is more likely to find relief and stay with their counselor until they both agree they are done(3).
How do I find help?
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Finding help for PTSD can feel overwhelming. If you are a veteran you can call the helpline and get started. If you are not a veteran there are still many options available to you. Your health insurance likely offers some mental health care, Mental Health America has resources listed for finding help, and National Institute of Mental Health has some as well. If you don't have health insurance don't panic! Many providers understand and will work with you, either charging on a sliding scale or by putting you in contact with one who does. Mental Health America, linked above, has some resources and Emedicine offers some arguments about why you should get help regardless.
I urge you to get help today if you are struggling with PTSD.
It is my goal to end the stigma that comes with PTSD. I blog about PTSD once a week, searching the mountains of information out there and bringing you the best of what I find. I review a book on PTSD every other week and I publish a weekly encouraging reflection and tweet encouraging quotes for PTSD survivors daily, follow me to be encouraged. Together we can make a difference.
When I'm not blogging about PTSD or trying to encourage those of you living with it I'm an author. I write romance. I just finished my first book and I am revising and editing it. With any luck, it will be published later this year, in the meantime you can get a sample of my work on the web. Original work can be found here, and fanfiction can be found here. Let me know what you think, and tell me how you found me!