If you have experienced a significant trauma in your life and are having a hard time dealing with or moving past it, you may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When we experience a life-threatening event, our brains and bodies may hold onto those intense memories and feelings of the trauma as a way of protecting ourselves from physically experiencing the same situation again. However, in PTSD, those intense memories may become intrusive in our daily lives leading to frequent anxiety, panic, and depression. While for some, traumatic memories may be manageable, for others, PTSD can be incredibly debilitating. Research has shown that untreated PTSD significantly increases one’s risk for major depression, anxiety, substance use, and a variety of other mental health conditions.

Treating PTSD can be incredibly challenging because of the intense emotions that surface whenever the trauma is discussed. Because of this, unique approaches are often needed. Psychiatric Associates of Pennsylvania offer a comprehensive trauma program designed to facilitate this process. We use the most advanced, evidenced based approaches including: EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and Aggressive Medication Management when appropriate.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

PTSD is a clinical diagnosis that involves a detailed mental health intake. Several criteria must be met in order to diagnose PTSD.

The following clinical symptoms must be present for a clinical diagnosis:

  • Intrusive Memories, which may include the following:
    • Recurrent, unwanted, and distressing memories of the traumatic event
    • Flashbacks (reliving the trauma as if it was actually occurring)
    • Nightmares of the trauma
    • Severe emotional distress or physical reaction to reminders of the trauma
  • Avoidant Behavior, which may include the following:
    • Trying to avoid talking or thinking about the trauma
    • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the trauma
  • Negative Changes in Thinking or Mood, which may include the following:
    • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or of the world
    • Hopelessness about the present and/or future
    • Memory problems, including not remembering details of the trauma
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
    • Feeling detached from family and friends
    • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
    • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
    • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions, which may include the following:
    • Being easily startled or frightened
    • Always being on guard or expecting danger
    • Self-destructive behavior, including self-harming, drugs, and alcohol
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior
    • Overwhelming shame or guilt

How is PTSD treated?

Treating PTSD is a challenging process, but it can be done. Perhaps one of the most critical first steps in treating PTSD is the establishment of trust. We understand how difficult it is to live with trauma and how challenging it can be just reaching out for help. Just the idea of talking about the trauma can feel like you might explode from the emotional intensity. Before you will be able to fully begin working through deep-rooted trauma; you must trust that we are here to help, that we will be your guide through the process, and that we will protect you as you go through this journey.

Once trust is established, there are various techniques that can be used to treat PTSD. Most methods involve some form of memory re-processing designed to essentially “disconnect” the intense emotional fear from the memory of the event in question. For many, medications may be necessary to help facilitate this process. In more advanced cases, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can also be effective in treating PTSD in conjunction with therapy.

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