Mental Health: Focus on PTSD

Merritt Beh headshot
Concierge Medicine, Internal Medicine
March 11, 2017
Man on therapist's couch

It’s estimated that more than 3 million cases of Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are diagnosed every year in the United States. Though often associated with military veterans, PTSD is actually much broader, affecting individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, such as an accident, a disaster or any type of assault.

While the majority of trauma survivors recover with time, those suffering from PTSD don’t. Simply put, PTSD is the failure of natural recovery. And, if PTSD does not remit within a year, it will last a lifetime unless it’s treated.

The symptoms

PTSD is a debilitating disorder. PTSD sufferers experience triggers that bring back memories of the trauma, accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. These flashbacks, along with sleep disturbances like insomnia or nightmares, are hallmarks of PTSD. Other symptoms may include:

  • Behavior: anger, aggression, irritability, hostility, hyper-vigilance, self-destructive behavior or social isolation
  • Thoughts/emotions: fear, severe anxiety, mistrust, feeling no place is safe, guilt, loneliness, emotional detachment, unwanted thoughts or the inability to feel pleasure
  • In addition, many people with PTSD also suffer from depression, and/or alcohol or drug dependencies.

There’s help

There are a number of treatment options for PTSD, including different types of psychotherapy and medications to manage depression and anxiety.

One particular form of treatment for PTSD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called prolonged exposure. CBT is the only type of psychotherapy that has been systematically studied and is evidence-based; it is proven to be effective in treating PTSD in 8 to 15 sessions. Prolonged exposure treatment uses safe confrontations (via exposure and discussions) over time, with trauma reminders (memories and situations) to identify, challenge and change the thoughts and beliefs underlying PTSD. Anxiety management techniques are also often part of this treatment.

If you or someone you care about may be struggling with PTSD, the time to seek help is now. The treatments are effective and can restore mental and emotional health and quality of life.

North Memorial Health has several providers who are trained in these evidenced-based PTSD treatments.

For more information, contact the North Memorial Health Mental Health Services Center at 763-520-5200.

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