Monday, June 8, 2015

PTSD Treatment- Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Hi there and welcome to another moment of the mania! I'm Ann Shannon, the manic writer. I blog about PTSD, encouragement, and write book reviews and romantic fiction. My passion is the military, soldiers, and veterans, especially those with PTSD. I love that you stopped by, grab a drink and make yourself at home. Leave a comment or find me on social media, I'd love to meet you and get to know you.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve covered the common treatments for PTSD, self-help, CBT and medication. I don’t mean to say these are the best or only treatments, but they are the typical ones, in my opinion. They are the infantry in the treatment army, the first to go in and fix things. Hey, infantry is important, they are the initial surveyors, they head in, get the lay of the land and report back to headquarters with their assessments. Without these important tools, we would be overwhelmed with ways to handle and heal PTSD.

Please remember that I am a writer 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. 

Once someone with PTSD has been triaged though, and the initial threats have been handled, it is time to look for healing because so often someone who is struggling with PTSD doesn’t seek help until their life is falling apart. They have serious depression, or they’re trying to mend themselves with alcohol or drugs, or the worst of all, they’re considering suicide. It’s important to triage them and handle those initial problems, help them get back on their feet because you can’t heal someone who is still hiding from the trolls under their table.

Over the next few weeks, I want to talk about some of the methods that are used to heal PTSD because I believe there is healing available. Will you be the same man or woman you were before your trauma? Of course not. Life is about change, both the good and the bad, but you can find relief from the fear, anxiety, flashbacks and depression. You can heal your mind to some degree and live again.

I believe in you.

One method I’ve come across that has incredible success rates is Prolonged Exposure therapy or PE and I’d like to give you a quick overview of it today. I was surprised that the success rates are as good as they are because I’d never heard of it before but when I described it to a good friend of mine who used to work in public health she chuckled and said they’d been using it for OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) for years. I wondered why, with the success rates it has, it isn’t more common to hear about it.

Prolonged Exposure therapy can help decrease the effect your trauma has on your life today. For example, if you have PTSD and you don’t drive because you’re afraid of roadside bombs, or of flying into a mountain in the dark it can help you overcome those fears and regain your life. It does this by helping you deal with the thoughts and feelings that accompany your PTSD and the situations you are probably avoiding because of it. (source)

Prolonged Exposure therapy can be broken down into four stages, education, breathing, real world practice and talking through the trauma (source). Each of these strategies is designed to help you regain control in a situation where you feel you’ve lost it. PE doesn’t erase your problems it helps you learn to deal with them and live again. I know I keep saying that but living again is the goal when you have PTSD because PTSD steals the joy from life and I am determined to help you get it back from the trolls.

The education portion of PE teaches you about the therapy and your own reactions to trauma, and PTSD. It helps you understand what the new ticking in your mind is. Hint: it’s not a time bomb, it's a troll trying to distract you.

The breathing exercises help you learn to relax and regain your control when you are experiencing a stressor, this can be a flashback or some other symptom that causes you to feel out of control. Breathing exercises are used in many stress-related therapies and it is amazing how much they can help. I’ll cover them in more depth in a later post.

Real world practice is kind of self-explanatory, but I’ll say it anyway. It involves having the individual expose themselves to situations where they feel out of control and work through dealing with it.

I could use this with airplanes and spiders. I did this once with spiders, I held a tarantula. Kudo’s to the brave man who let me hold his pet, he has no idea how close it came to being squashed. I’m still terrified of spiders, but not tarantula’s so much anymore. So it worked, but obviously I need more work. If I am going to do this with airplanes I think it would help if the airplane was heading some place tropical, I’d definitely feel better about flying then.

Finally, the most important part of PE is talking through the trauma. You sit with a therapist who is trained in PE and they guide you through a series of exercises that help you see your fears more clearly and overcome them. Through this work, you learn to gain control over the trolls who are haunting you and put them to work for you. They should work for you rather than against you after they aren’t paying rent, are they?

It’s important to remember that PE doesn’t rid you of PTSD, but it can help you live more comfortably with it. PE has been shown to reduce symptoms and help individuals with PTSD live more productive and happy lives. It’s been widely studied and is good treatment even for those who have other mental health complications such as mental health issues or substance abuse problems. (source)

In my opinion there is no one way to treat PTSD, we are all unique and as such we all need different approaches. If you are suffering from debilitating flashbacks or fears then PE might be right for you. Only you and your doctor can decide the best treatment for you. For that to happen you have to be informed. Follow some of the links I’ve included to learn more.

I wanted to give you a success story for PE what I found instead was a video. I’m including it here, but I want to include a trigger warning. It is a 60 Minutes segment that covers an inpatient program at the VA in Arkansas. It is intense and emotional. If hearing other vets discuss their trauma, PTSD, and struggles is hard for you then I suggest you don’t watch it, or at least watch it with someone there to help you if you get upset.

Whatever you do, please don’t suffer in silence. You have PTSD because you have courage, use that courage to get help. I believe in you.

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!

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