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We recommend going to the National Center on PTSD website for a thorough and comprehensive source of information regarding trauma, PTSD, and treatment options.
The majority of people will experience a traumatic event during their lifetime. Examples of trauma can include combat and sexual assault, and can also include car accidents, natural disasters, etc. Often, a large portion of people will experience symptoms consistent with PTSD immediately following an event. However, most people eventually recover and will not experience the same symptoms and behaviors after a few months. Therefore, we often will explain PTSD as a disruption in the recovery process. The experience was so distressing to the person that they are stuck in the process of recovery.
Some of the cluster of symptoms and experiences that are typical in PTSD include re-experiencing the trauma, even when the person does not want to (e.g., nightmares). People may also become more hypervigilant, such as being more watchful, on guard, or easily startled. They also experience negative emotions and thoughts, including self-blame and feeling detached from others and their surroundings. What feeds this process and makes recovery difficult is one of the primary symptoms of PTSD: avoidance. The more someone avoids developing a healthy coping approach to the trauma (instead of unhealthy avoidance approaches such as substance use, isolation, etc.), the more their beliefs about the impact of the trauma continue.
So, with this in mind, we recommend people engage in treatment. If someone has experienced a trauma, and has concerns about their ability to recover from the trauma, they should seek an appointment with a psychotherapist for an evaluation and discussion of treatment options. We continue to learn so much about trauma and PTSD, including which medications have been shown to provide benefit, the impact of trauma and moral injury, and which factors contribute to people becoming more resilient after a trauma. At this time, there are three primary types of psychotherapy which have shown the most benefit based on research across civilian and military populations:
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Exposure Therapy for PTSD, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). If someone is interesting in getting help for PTSD, they should discuss these therapy options with their provider (these are different approaches which require different trainings and certifications for the therapist). Medications can certainly be helpful, but psychotherapy tends to have the most support of people engaging in treatment and no longer meeting criteria for PTSD after the successful completion of treatment.
For apps, the PTSD Coach is a great initial app to download and use for information and coping strategies. If someone is engaged in a particular treatment (i.e., CPT for PTSD), there's an app for those too!
Our PHP staff can provide trainings to units about PTSD or other behavioral health difficulties as well.