By Kathryn Millán, LPC, MHSP
Approximately six out of every 10 men and five out of every 10 women will experience at least one traumatic incident in the course of their lives. Currently, an estimated seven to eight percent of the US adult population has had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point. This adds up to about 8 million adults per year.1
One glance at the news seems to indicate that traumatic incidents are on the rise, but trauma has always been part of the human condition. Like most other things in our modern world, PTSD treatment has also evolved. New PTSD treatments are released each year, offering hope to anyone who struggles with traumatic experiences.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a trauma and stressor-related mental health condition that is based on very specific symptoms. PTSD is a treatable condition that can happen to anyone who experiences a traumatic incident. You may have PTSD if you have the following symptoms:
- You experienced an event that made you feel afraid for your life, your safety or the lives of others (even if that fear was not warranted).
- You continue to re-experience that trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, distressing memories, distress after reminders of the incident or physical reactions after exposure to trauma reminders.
- You try to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma, which may include avoidance of thoughts, feelings, portrayals, smells or pictures of related themes.
- You begin to have negative thoughts and actions that worsen as time goes on. These may include depression symptoms, isolation, difficulty feeling hopeful or positive, self-blame, blame of others, not feeling safe in the world or negative thoughts about others.
- You may begin to feel irritable or aggressive. You might startle easily, have difficulty concentrating and sleeping, feel hyper-vigilant for other dangers or engage in destructive or risky behavior.
- All of these symptoms last more than one month and create some type of distress or impairment to your everyday life.2
Raising Awareness for PTSD
PTSD can happen to anyone. It doesn’t discriminate and impacts people of all ages, races, backgrounds and income levels. It can happen to soldiers or everyday citizens. It can come from a single, sudden trauma or a series of traumatic experiences. It’s important to share information about this condition, to be aware and to help those in need because PTSD can strike anyone.
In 2010, the US Congress chose June 27 to be national PTSD Awareness Day. The Senate then designated the entire month of June as National PTSD Awareness Month. This month has been set aside as a time to raise awareness for PTSD and its treatments, but it’s important to help spread this vital awareness every day of the year.3
Traditional Treatments for PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a treatable condition, and with treatment, many people go on to live normal lives even after severe cases of PTSD. Some traditional, proven treatments for PTSD include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Cognitive Processing Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
- Supportive medications
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
New, Experimental Treatments for PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually treated through mental health counseling and medication management, but new treatments are being researched every day. Even if you’ve received treatment for PTSD in the past, newer treatments may be available in the future.
Treatments that are still under study are not offered to the general public. Volunteers choose to be part of these ethical studies, which are often held at leading universities. Many experimental treatments don’t pass the rigorous guidelines required to become a clinically-acceptable treatment, but they are quite interesting to consider as possibilities.
Some of the newer, experimental treatments for PTSD include:
- MDMA combined with therapy. Known as “molly” or “ecstasy,” MDMA has been an illegal party drug for decades. This drug is not ruled as safe for public consumption and, when procured illegally, is not regulated by the FDA. However, new, regulated studies have shown evidence that MDMA, when used in a highly-controlled environment, may help treat the effects of trauma when combined with specialized counseling. Patients are not allowed to take a pill home. Instead, they must first complete several weeks of counseling and then are provided a small dose of MDMA while working with a specialized counseling team to discuss their trauma. MDMA causes brief feelings of trust and comfort that may allow the patient to discuss, re-process and heal from their trauma in a safe environment. The process lasts as long as eight hours and is designed to focus solely on trauma recovery.4
- Accelerated resolution therapy (ART). This therapy is designed to treat trauma in as few as five sessions, while many traditional trauma treatment methods may take months or even years to complete. ART borrows from EMDR therapy, as it uses calm, gentle eye movements to help individuals move past trauma. It combines this with a technique that involves “replacement memories” to help take some of the anxiety out of trauma treatment. This treatment has not officially been approved by most leading trauma therapists, but it is now in research trials for volunteer participants.5
- Virtual reality treatment. This treatment uses technology to improve trauma memories and awareness, and it is currently only available to war veterans and people with combat experience. While this type of treatment was once cost-prohibitive, new technology has made virtual reality treatment an affordable way to help soldiers become more comfortable with battle memories and find healing with the help of a treatment team, combined with virtual experience.6
- Cannabis combined with therapy. Marijuana (cannabis) can be emotionally addictive, so it’s important to use it and any other experimental medical treatment with caution and understanding. Cannabis may work by decreasing physical inflammation that can arise after chronic stress. This treatment is still under study and is not available to the general public.7
Proven Treatment for PTSD
If you or someone you love struggles with the effects of trauma, Black Bear can help. We use a variety of evidence-based methods that have been studied, evaluated and proven to help create healing results. Call us to find out how we can help you or someone you care about today.
1 “How Common is PTSD?” U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, 2018.
2 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. Print.
3 “PTSD Awareness Month.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017.
4 Philipps, Dave. “Ecstasy as a Remedy for PTSD? You Probably Have Some Questions.” The New York Times, May 1, 2018.
6 Parkin, Simon. “How Virtual Reality Is Helping Heal Soldiers with PTSD.” NBC News, March 16, 2017.
7 “First FDA-approved study of cannabis for PTSD in veterans underway.” Healio, May 6, 2018.