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Is It Possible To Overcome PTSD? 11 Highly Effective Treatments – And Their Potential Side Effects

Person speaks to someone about therapy

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include reliving the event via flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the incident.

These symptoms can lead to significant distress and can interfere with daily functioning. However, effective treatments are available to manage PTSD effectively and regain control over one’s life.

Here are 11 highly effective treatments, and their potential side effects.

1. Cognitive Processing Therapy

CPT is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy that aims to help you understand and change thought patterns that lead to certain behaviours. It helps you to learn skills to modify your thoughts related to the trauma, ultimately assisting in the reduction of PTSD symptoms.

However, this therapy may initially increase anxiety levels due to exposure techniques. 

2. Prolonged Exposure Therapy 

This form of psychotherapy encourages you to gradually approach trauma-related memories and feelings. Over time, this could decrease symptoms of PTSD by helping you to gain control over your fear by confronting it directly.

However, you should be aware that the initial stages of this therapy might enhance your anxiety due to direct confrontation with distressing memories. 

3. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

Unlike traditional CBT which addresses present-day problems alone, trauma-focused CBT specifically targets memories of the traumatic episode and their lingering effects. It is a proven method for reducing symptoms like anger, depression and anxiety associated with PTSD.

Though beneficial, this treatment may result in temporary emotional discomfort as past traumas are addressed and worked through. 

4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is a unique type of psychotherapy designed to diminish negative feelings associated with memories of traumatic events. Unlike other therapies that focus on the trauma, EMDR therapy focuses on the emotions related to the traumatic events.

During treatment, you may experience the recollection of distressing memories leading to high levels of emotional discomfort or vivid, realistic nightmares or flashbacks. But being prepared for potential EMDR therapy side effects forms an essential part of the therapeutic journey, and a healthcare professional will help throughout the process. 

5. Medication

Different types of medication can often be effective in treating PTSD, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs).

These medications work by affecting chemical signals in your brain related to fear and anxiety. Some potential side effects may include nausea, headache, drowsiness or agitation. 

6. Narrative Exposure Therapy

This therapy uses storytelling as a mechanism for overcoming the fear associated with traumatic experiences. Essentially, it helps separate the fear structure from the memory of the event, thereby reducing PTSD symptoms.

However, be prepared as revisiting traumatic memories often triggers intense emotional responses initially.

7. Stress Inoculation Training

This type of CBT aims to improve your coping skills by teaching you how to reduce anxiety. With this training, you can manage future stressors effectively and reduce symptoms connected with PTSD.

On rare occasions, trying to control anxiety might actually evoke increased worry or stress. 

8. Group Therapy

In group therapy sessions, you share your experiences with others who have gone through similar situations. This shared environment fosters mutual understanding and support, which can aid recovery from PTSD.

You might feel uncomfortable sharing personal experiences in a group, though, which is a potential drawback. 

9. Mindfulness-Based Therapies

Mindfulness-based therapies like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction can help you focus on present experiences and learn to stay grounded, thereby reducing PTSD symptoms. Possible side effects include temporary discomfort or agitation during the initial stages of mindfulness practices.

10. Alternative Treatments

Options such as acupuncture, meditation and yoga are often used in combination with traditional treatments for PTSD. These alternative methods can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. However, one must be careful as some alternative treatments may interact with medications or other therapies. 

11. Self-Care Techniques

In addition to professional treatments, self-care techniques can play a vital role in managing PTSD symptoms. Regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and ensuring adequate sleep all contribute to overall well-being.

Additionally, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, massage therapy, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and anxiety. Exploring hobbies and interests provides opportunities for positive engagement and distraction from distressing memories.

However, self-care should not replace professional treatment but rather complement it. Also, remember that creating a new routine or habit may initially feel overwhelming or challenging until regularly practised. 

So, is it possible to overcome PTSD?

With some of the above highly effective treatments, it is definitely within your grasp to manage your symptoms well. In time, you have the potential to overcome your PTSD.

Each treatment modality offers unique advantages in managing and mitigating the impact of PTSD and side effects can vary from person to person.

So, begin your journey by speaking to a healthcare provider who can tailor a treatment plan that works best for you.