When Rhonda was a child, her mother would never let her wake her father. Though he was calm when he woke naturally, if he was awakened by an outside force like an alarm clock or another person, he would come up swinging his arms as though defending himself. To be safe, Rhonda’s mother and father devised a system. When he needed to be roused from sleep, Rhonda’s mother would grab his big toe and gently shake it, keeping her out of the way of an accidental blow.
Rhonda’s father was a Vietnam veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He never sought counseling, and though he was able to lead a more-or-less normal life, his experiences in war were never far from his mind. With counseling, he might have been able to release the concern of accidentally hurting someone when being woken in the morning.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious issue that develops after a person experiences a trauma such as sexual assault, war, traffic accidents, or violent crime. Some symptoms include flashbacks, hypersensitivity, avoidance of the situation, nightmares, trouble sleeping, and overwhelming memories of the event which last more a month after the trauma. PTSD is an anxiety disorder, and is experienced more in adults than in children. Because we know dealing with PTSD on your own can be overwhelming, Thriveworks Austin counselors are here to help.
Who Experiences PTSD?
We often associate PTSD with military service, and though it absolutely occurs among that demographic, service members aren’t the only ones who experience PTSD. Anyone who experiences a trauma may develop the disorder. Though not everyone who experiences a trauma will develop PTSD, it’s not uncommon—in fact, about 8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point. And for those who do, counseling is a necessity in recovery. Medication is often helpful, as well as counseling to process the emotions and circumstances of the event. Thriveworks Austin counselors will help you find a treatment plan that addresses all of your symptoms.
PTSD in the Military
PTSD has been documented among service members since at least the Civil War. Originally, it was thought to be a form of brain damage caused by shells exploding near the service member. Of course, we know today that is not accurate—it is a psychological condition with symptoms consistent across patients, though it wasn’t officially listed as a documented condition until 1980 (Friedman). Combative exchanges, accidents, and other violent acts are somewhat more common experiences for those in military service, and thus they are at a higher risk for developing PTSD. Unfortunately, because of the stigma historically associated with PTSD, service members are often reluctant to talk about it and may consider it just a normal part of the military experience. However, this is not true or necessary. Real help is just a phone call away. Our military members do not have to suffer in silence. Thriveworks Austin counselors are experts in helping individuals find relief from PTSD, and we are sensitive to the unique situations service members may have experienced.
How is PTSD Treated?
We’ve come a long way from the origins of post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. Today, PTSD is usually treated with some form of psychotherapy, including:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy—instead of drawn-out analysis of what caused the problem, in this case PTSD, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on tackling the situation head-on to change the pattern of thinking that is causing the problem. Thoughts create feelings, and feelings lead to behaviors, so by addressing first the thought process, the whole pattern of feelings and behavior can be altered.
Exposure therapy—As part of the process, the therapist may suggest directly exposing the patient to part of what they fear. For example, a person with PTSD may get nervous in crowds. The patient, with the presence of the therapist, might be gradually exposed to first a small crowd and gradually be acclimated to larger and larger crowds.
If the therapist and patient decide it’s warranted, some medication may also be used, such as an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant. Everyone is different, so it’s important to remember that your needs may be different from another’s.
How Much Will I Have to Discuss the Trauma?
Some patients come in and need to discuss the details of their experience to feel affirmed and validated. However, it’s exceedingly common for patients to have no desire to relive their trauma. Though your therapist will want to know the basic details—what type of trauma you experienced, where it occurred, and how long ago—in most cases you won’t be asked to describe it in detail. PTSD therapy is generally more concerned with how to deal with the affects the trauma is having on your life today than it is with how and why the trauma occurred. Every person’s needs are different, so how much you discuss your trauma specifically will be up to what you and your therapist decide is best.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment with Thriveworks Austin Counselors
PTSD counseling is a vital part of recovering from a traumatic experience. Whatever the trauma you’ve experienced, it does not have to define your entire life. Thriveworks Austin counselors do not operate with a waiting list. We want to be ready when we are needed. When you call us, we have appointments available for new clients within 24 hours. We are standing by, ready to walk with you on this journey.
Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD. History of PTSD in Veterans: Civil War to DSM-5. August, 2015. https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/