Understanding How to Cope with PTSD

Trauma is defined by the experience of emotional disruption resulting in brain dysregulation significant enough to evoke a “fight or flight” or “shut-down” reaction from the sub-cortical (non-conscious) limbic system. Yellowbrick recognizes Cumulative Trauma and Occurrence Trauma as differentiated but often combined contexts resulting in brain dysregulation. Not all states of dysregulation result in the symptom profile of PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as defined in the DSM-V but this group is the most well researched. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can even occur when someone has witnessed, not only experienced, a traumatic event.

Yellowbrick’s model of care is informed by trauma and brain research. Jesse Viner MD, CEO & Chief Medical Officer, says, “Yellowbrick’s model strives to create a sanctuary of trust and safety through supportive, attuned relationships. But this sanctuary is not an asylum because the opportunity for enduring change requires utilizing relationships to take supported risks in treatment.”

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, there are roughly 8 million people in the US currently living with PTSD. Women are twice as likely to develop the disorder as men. People with PTSD may have trouble with relationships and experience challenges with trust and communication, affecting multiple areas of their lives. Symptoms of severe depression, panic and/or anxiety, and forms of re-experiencing of the trauma may persist for years as it is self-reinforcing.  

How to Cope with PTSD

When someone has PTSD, they experience life as a persistent threat and/or assault. Efforts to cope with agitation and/or the distress associated with an inner empty void commonly lead to inhibition and avoidance along with misuse of substances that briefly “shut it all off” or mask emptiness with chemical stimulation of reward experiences. Several healthy coping strategies can reduce the intensity and frequency of distress and maladaptive behaviors associated with PTSD.

Mindfulness: Relaxation techniques around mindfulness and meditation have been proven effective for numerous mental health disorders. Mindfulness-based techniques for PTSD can help someone pay attention to and become more aware of the present. Additionally, individuals develop self-compassion and become more accepting and willing to experience their thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Physical Health: People who have been diagnosed with PTSD are more likely to experience physical health problems such as arthritis, heart disease, digestive issues, and diabetes. Developing habits that include a healthy diet and physical activity can significantly improve mood and physical health and reduce PTSD symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

Triggers: Anyone who experiences a traumatic event will encounter daily life events that subconsciously remind them of the incident. These reminders can trigger emotional and physical reactions that induce fear, sadness, or other negative emotion including becoming suicidal. Being aware of persons, places, or things that are triggers and learning how to navigate these risks is an important process of self-protection.

Journal: Expressive writing helps people with PTSD express thoughts and feelings. Journaling has been shown to improve coping and reduce symptoms such as tension, anger, and anxiety.

Art Therapy: The personal creativity used in art therapy is helpful for those diagnosed with PTSD in that it helps to process and integrate otherwise dysregulated emotions and cope with negative memories through drawing, painting, or sculpting.

Support Network: One of the most important ways to cope with PTSD is to have a strong support network. Research has shown that the severity of PTSD is lower for those who have social support. A network of friends and family can reduce the symptoms associated with trauma and help work through stressful situations.

Getting Help for PTSD

Someone with PTSD may practice helping coping strategies but find they still need additional treatment in a higher level of care. For more information about the treatment of trauma at Yellowbrick, contact us today.

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