What is PTSD or Trauma and how do  you overcome it?

Hello, I am a Santa Rosa mental health treatment provider, Dr. Eric Ryan—I help people learn to overcome their past trauma’s, nightmareis, panic or anxiety, and related fears!  I provide treatment for your PTSD and Trauma and in this sense am a trauma or PTSD doctor, therapist, or counselor offering effective psychologically based psychotherapy or counseling for your trauma or PTSD.  I would like to talk to you about your Trauma or PTSD and help you understand how Trauma and PTSD may be affecting you how I can help you resolve these old wounds.

What it is: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for short, is a complex, often chronic disorder that involves three clusters of symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event:

  • re-experiencing
  • increased arousal
  • avoidance or numbing of responsiveness

Trauma survivors often exhibit complicated associated features such as over or under responding emotionally, experiencing physical problems, and dissociation.  PTSD is frequently linked with intense suffering and is considered to be one of the most distressing of problems.  In severe cases, PTSD can disrupt virtually every aspect of normal functioning.  Sometimes PTSD symptoms can seemingly go away for extended periods only to reemerge in response to recent stressors or unrecognized triggers related to the original trauma.

The Effects of Trauma on Emotional Development: The term “complex PTSD” was coined by Dr. Judith Herman in 1992.  “Complex” traumas often involve parents, siblings or caretakers as perpetrators, and tend to occur multiple times while the emerging self is forming.  These types of traumas cause disruptions in fundamental relationships.  When trauma occurs during childhood, is frequent or prolonged, and/or involves interpersonal abuse (such as childhood sexual or physical abuse), other distressing symptoms in addition to PTSD may develop.  These include: impaired emotional modulation; self destructive and impulsive behavior; dissociative symptoms; bodily complaints; feelings of ineffectiveness; shame, despair, or hopelessness; a sense of being permanently damaged; a loss of previously sustained beliefs; hostility; social withdrawal; feeling constantly threatened; impaired relationships with others; or a change in personality.

Other Problems Caused by Trauma and PTSD:

  • Major Depression, Substance Use, and Other Anxiety Disorders: There is increasing scientific evidence that trauma causes other psychiatric disorders.  80% of people who have PTSD also suffer from the above disorders.
  • Substance Use Disorders:   If you have PTSD, you may seek to self medicate painful trauma emotions by using alcohol or other drugs, and are at risk for becoming addicted.
  • Dissociation:  Dissociation is a psychological defense against overwhelming feelings where you may experience memory lapses, feel unreal or altered, dreamy or outside of your body, etc.
  • Alexithymia:  relates to the absence or inability to experience feelings.
  • Traumatic Amnesia: Forgetting all or parts of what happened to you when you were traumatized
  • PTSD and Suicide: You are at increased risk of suicide if you have PTSD!!!

Successful Treatment of Trauma and PTSD: Since trauma, especially when encountered in childhood, often affects your ability to connect with others, you need to develop a safe and secure relationship with your therapist.  This is a necessary first step: the degree you feel connected to your therapist will help you to confront what happened to you!  After this initial step, several forms of psychotherapy can help you recover from trauma.  Any successful treatment would involve gradually confronting what happened to you.  Disclosing and processing traumatic material (memories, images, related thoughts and feelings) is the primary way of recovering from Trauma and PTSD.  The goal is to confront rather than avoid traumatic material and also to create a coherent life history that contains both the trauma story as well as your personal successes.  You would be gently encouraged to feel and engage the emotions associated with the trauma.  Three types of therapy have the greatest scientific evidence: Prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and EMDR.

Drugs should not replace therapy or psychotherapy: Drugs may help somewhat but they only tend to mask symptoms!  When you stop taking the drug, the symptoms will eventually return.  In addition, all psychiatric drugs have significant side effects that can be very unpleasant.  With the above caveat, there are several classes of medication frequently used to treat PTSD and Trauma.  The safest and most effective are the Antidepressants, especially the SSRI’s and SNRI’s.  Tranquilizers are often used but are addictive, interfere with psychotherapy, and some scientist now believe they may worsen your symptoms over the long run.  Antipsychotics and mood stabilizers are also used.  To learn even more about Trauma, PTSD, and how it affects you, go to Important Facts About Trauma and PTSD.

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