POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD), TRAUMA, and COMPLEX TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (CPTSD)
Traumatic experiences can have a lasting impact on quality of life, with ill-effects often experienced even years after a traumatic event. Our skilled therapists can help patients to process the difficult emotions associated with the trauma, and to learn more useful coping skills that will help them to move on.
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND TRAUMA
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can result after someone experiences a deeply traumatic event, or a series of traumas. The specific type of event varies: for example, a car crash, an assault (sexual or otherwise), being involved in war or violence, or even seeing terrible things happen to someone else can all lead to PTSD symptoms. These symptoms can include flashbacks, difficulty remembering the event, and problems such as elevated heart rate and stress responses, even in the absence of danger. Often, people with PTSD avoid thinking about the stressful event, and might even have difficulty recalling it, while periodically experiencing involuntary flashbacks. When people with PTSD experience a flashback or a recurrence of stress, they go through much of the original trauma, and experience similar levels of stress, without resolution.
PTSD also implies some distance from the event; while a stress reaction to an event that is still ongoing is normal and healthy, continuing to experience serious stress long afterwards is a problem, and can have a massive impact on quality of life, and on the ability to form positive relationships, and even to parent.
While anyone who experiences trauma can develop PTSD in response, there might also be a genetic element, with some people being naturally more susceptible to the condition than others.
PTSD clearly has serious psychological repercussions, and it can also impact on one’s physical health, as it can lead to people experiencing all the symptoms of severe stress – secretion of high levels of adrenaline, elevated heart rate, etc. – even in the absence of a threat. This puts the body under strain and can aggravate underlying physical conditions. Moreover, people with untreated PTSD are vulnerable to misusing alcohol and drugs, often in an attempt to “treat” their symptoms.
COMPLEX POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (CPTSD)
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) arises in response to traumatic situations in which the victim has, or feels they have, no way to escape. For example, victims of slavery (such as sex slavery), human trafficking, or chronic psychological abuse or neglect can all potentially develop CPTSD. In this respect, it differs from PTSD, which is typically associated with a singular traumatic event, such as a violent attack, a terrible accident, and so on, or a time-limited series of events.
Patients with CPTSD often have complicated psychological needs. They frequently struggle with issues of attachment, have low esteem, and struggle to form healthy relationships with others. They can also be vulnerable to problems with anger management, substance addiction, compulsive behaviour, and a sense of helplessness.
TREATING PTSD, CPTSD AND TRAUMA
As a general rule, the earlier the sufferer is treated, the more effective therapy is likely to be. However, even in cases when the original trauma happened a long time ago, psychotherapy can have a very dramatic impact. In the short term, there may be a benefit in using medication, such as an anti-depressant, but for the long term treatment of PTSD, CPTSD, and trauma, therapies that work on changing reactions and behaviours, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR), are the best approaches, often in tandem with learning how to identify “avoidance behaviour”, and acquiring techniques that can help to keep anxiety levels under control. It may also be useful to avail of help available in the community, such as a support group, and to work on physical wellbeing and health as well as addressing psychological issues.
CPTSD can be particularly challenging to treat because sufferers often also have numerous comorbid conditions. Treating someone with CPTSD generally means addressing not just the symptoms that relate to their experience of trauma, but also working with them and the important people in their lives to establish healthy behavioural patterns and boundaries. Treatment modalities that have been shown to help include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Emotionally Focussed Therapy (EFT) and Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT).
However, because of the complex nature of the condition, and of clients’ personal histories, there is no “one size fits all” approach, and most therapists will work with their clients to find a unique approach that is tailored to their individual needs.
HOW CAN I GET PTSD, CPTSD, AND TRAUMA TREATMENT IN LONDON?
Bisson JI, Cosgrove S, Lewis C, Robert NP (November 2015). “Post-traumatic stress disorder”. British Medical Journal. 351: h6161.
Cook A, Blaustein M, Spinazzola J, Van Der Kolk B (2005). “Complex trauma in children and adolescents”. Psychiatric Annals. 35 (5): 390–398.
Hetrick SE, Purcell R, Garner B, Parslow R (July 2010). “Combined pharmacotherapy and psychological therapies for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
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