rauma is an unfortunately common life experience, but certain factors may make you more or less vulnerable to its effects. While some people can carry on after a traumatic event with little trouble, others feel haunted by their trauma for months or years. If you struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you might feel like your past experience is always lurking in the back of your mind, waiting for a moment to resurface. This can make you extremely anxious, tense, and exhausted.
People with PTSD often feel nervous to talk about their trauma or to open up about its continued effects on their life. You are not alone if you’re dealing with lasting effects from a traumatic event. No matter what your critical inner voice may tell you, you are not wrong or weak for struggling to heal from trauma. The experience can literally change the structure and chemistry of your brain, causing marked changes in your emotions and behaviors.
To overcome these changes and regain control over your mental health, it’s important to reach out for support. Therapy can be a valuable opportunity to process what happened to you, explore your response to the trauma, and learn coping strategies for your triggers. You don’t have to live in fear, and The Beverly Hills Therapy Group is here to help. Our counselors provide therapy for PTSD so that our clients can regain their peace of mind and navigate life free from the burden of trauma.
What Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a clinical mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. Not everyone who goes through trauma deals with PTSD, but about 6 percent of the total population will face PTSD at some point in their lives.
PTSD can develop after a single event, like an assault, car accident, or natural disaster. It can also occur after a lengthier traumatic experience, such as exposure to war or childhood abuse or neglect. PTSD that forms after long-term, ongoing trauma is known as complex PTSD. Complex PTSD shares many of the same symptoms as PTSD, but people with complex trauma may experience additional emotional and behavioral concerns.
Your brain has an intense response to trauma in the moment. To protect yourself, your mind and body enter fight-or-flight mode, which enhances your alertness, increases your stress levels, and makes you feel on edge. If you develop PTSD, these fight-or-flight symptoms never fully go away. Even though you’re no longer in immediate danger, the state of fear and alertness become your default setting. For some people, this experience lasts for a couple months. For others, it lasts for years or even decades.
In some cases, people develop PTSD without being directly exposed to a traumatic incident. Hearing about trauma in detail can cause PTSD symptoms, especially if you’re already vulnerable to mental health concerns. For example, emergency responders might develop PTSD after witnessing so many other people going through trauma. Similarly, a child who hears a detailed account of their mother’s traumatic experience may show signs of PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must have at least one symptom in each of four categories after experiencing, witnessing, or learning about a trauma. The following are the four categories of symptoms:
- Intrusion: Re-experiencing the event through unwanted memories, flashbacks, or nightmares.
- Avoidance: Attempting to avoid thoughts, feelings, people, situations, or other stimuli that remind you of the trauma.
- Change in mood or cognition: Negative thoughts or feelings after the trauma, including memory loss, negative beliefs about yourself or the world, social isolation, or loss of interest in activities.
- Arousal and reactivity: Irritability, hyper-vigilance, heightened startle response, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, or risky behavior that began or worsened after the event.
How Therapy Helps You Heal
When you’ve been struggling with PTSD for a long time, it can feel like you’ll never escape your trauma. You may worry that you’ll face flashbacks, nightmares, or intense anxiety for the rest of your life. This isn’t the case, though. It is fully possible to overcome PTSD and allow your trauma to remain in the past.
You may not be able to completely forget about your trauma or the effects it had on your life, but you can dramatically reduce its impact on your day-to-day health and happiness. Therapy for PTSD can equip you with the knowledge and coping skills you need to overcome your trauma.
Here Are Some of the Most Important Benefits of Therapy for PTSD
Therapy provides a safe environment for you to process your trauma.
Sometimes, to recover after trauma, you need to take the time to make sense of what happened to you. If you try to process the event on your own, though, you might experience flashbacks or other painful responses.
During counseling, your therapist creates a safe environment for you to talk about your trauma. They’ll guide the discussion so that you feel supported, but they won’t pressure you to talk about anything you’re not ready to discuss. Verbally processing your experience can help you understand how you feel about your trauma and why you responded in the way that you did. By understanding yourself and your experiences, you can more easily complete the in-depth mental health work needed to recover from your PTSD.
Therapy helps you develop coping skills.
One of the biggest challenges when you have PTSD is navigating triggering situations or events in your daily life. While you may be able to simply avoid certain triggers, no one wants to live in fear of flashbacks or panic attacks. In therapy, you’ll work on developing healthy coping skills so that you can eventually face your triggers directly. You’ll learn to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment, and you can practice calming strategies to reduce your fight-or-flight response during difficult situations.
Therapy can help you prevent or heal from co-occurring mental health disorders.
Individuals with PTSD are more likely to have a co-occurring psychological disorder, so therapy provides an opportunity for you to address your overall mental well-being. If you’ve been through a trauma, you might struggle with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or other issues. It’s impossible to overcome one of these diagnoses without taking a comprehensive look at your mental health. If you try to heal from your trauma without working through your anxiety, for instance, you may not make much progress.
Your therapist has an in-depth understanding of how trauma can affect your overall mental state. Not only will they work with you to address your trauma, but they’ll help you understand and work toward your broader mental health goals.
Therapy empowers you to envision your life after trauma.
Counseling isn’t just about working through your past experiences. As you heal from your trauma, you and your therapist will also talk about your goals for the future. Maybe you want to reconnect with people in your life you’ve felt isolated from, or maybe you have career aspirations that you want to start working toward. Your PTSD does not have to rule your life, and your therapist can help you imagine yourself and your future free from your trauma.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and the other mental health conditions that can occur alongside it. If you’re ready to take the first step toward healing after a trauma, you can reach out to us today to talk to a PTSD therapist in Los Angeles.
Call us at (888) 494-7788 to set up your free consultation session.