Positive Solutions For Dealing With PTSD

Because there are so many great blogs about addiction recovery and/or mental illness, I will be choosing topics from their writings and posting the best of each.

1.  From MC Kelly: “Trauma & Post-Traumatic Growth”:

“In the face of high doses of trauma, and especially if there are signs of post-traumatic stress, early treatment is essential, states Joseph C. Napoli, M.D., a psychiatrist in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and co-director of Resiliency, a crisis-response consulting firm.”

“Psychologists say taking action and finding positive passions can spur post-traumatic growth. Some survivors turn to religion, volunteering, athletics or another outlet. Others show growth by transforming their trauma into service, speaking in the community, serving as a witness in court or lobbying for laws that would prevent similar accidents.”

“Coming to terms with the loss of control is also key to creating a more fulfilling life after trauma, says Ken Reinhard, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic for the Veteran’s Administration Hudson Valley Health Care System in Montrose, New York.”

“If you’re struggling after a trauma, visit the American Psychological Association at APA.org.”

2.  From Dr. John Zemler: “A Laundry List of PTSD Healing Techniques”:

“Start Writing:  You don’t have to share it with anyone.  But it will help.”

“Start Talking: Find someone you can trust and talk about it.  They have to be able to hear the same story over and over and be able to listen and not judge or interrupt.  Sometimes only a good therapist can do that.   Anyone can interrupt me (they often do!), it is a gift to be able to listen attentively.”

“Seek God: If you have a faith community, start attending.  You can write and talk to God.  This can be done formally (church service) or informally by taking a walk and telling God what is on your mind, or writing about an important issue in your journal.”

“Get Creative: Find, or start fresh, some creative outlet.  Creation is life and it helps heal PTSD.  Drawing, singing, painting, writing, etc.  Some folks say they don’t know how so they never start to be creative.  Then it is a great opportunity to discover where talents lie that are now very rough but that can be nurtured.  Art is life.”

“Compassion: While this is a hard one it is necessary: Try to understand people the way you would like to be understood.  Tolerate as you would like to be tolerated. This often takes a lifetime, but we can choose to become more compassionate.”

“Forgiveness:  If you cannot forgive, ask God that you will one day have the grace to forgive.  PTSD thrives on hate and will try to keep us from forgiveness.  Forgiveness does not mean we suddenly trust someone, it means we will no longer be controlled by hatred.  Forgiveness does not means we say it is okay that these bad things have occurred.  It means we want to heal from their effects.”

3.  From Rolling Stone by Katie MacBride: “Can Virtual Reality Help Cure PTSD?“:

Chris Merkle had no intention of revisiting the traumatic events he experienced in war. After three tours in Iraq and four in Afghanistan, there was plenty to process – but his concern was moving forward, not revisiting the past. “I’m a Marine,” he says now, from his home in Los Angeles. “We’re taught to do our jobs, to accomplish our mission. We’re not going to sit around and talk about our feelings.”

He’d come here, to Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo’s lab at the Institute of Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, after months of working with a therapist with little result. “She was a great therapist,” Merkle says, “but she couldn’t do anything if I wasn’t willing to talk about my experience. And I just wasn’t.”

At the time, Merkle was struggling with challenges he believed were a result of his present situation, not his past experiences. “It’s really hard coming home,” he says. “Most of us joined right out of high school. My sense of identity was being part of this group, working for the greater good. When you come home, you lose that.” There were practical challenges as well. “I was trained as a machine gunner. There are no machine gunner jobs in the U.S. I didn’t want that to be my job, but it was the only thing I had been trained to do.” Each vet deals with these challenges in different ways. For Merkle, it was anger. “The slightest thing would send me off. It just got worse and worse.”

Merkle reached out to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and was eventually connected with a therapist who suggested he try Virtual Reality-based exposure therapy. Unsurprisingly, Merkle wasn’t thrilled about the idea. In VR exposure therapy, a patient enters a virtual re-enactment of a traumatic event. In the case of many vets like Merkle, these events are really multiple traumas, graphic battle scenes imbued with violence, confusion, helplessness, and grief. Simply discussing such a charged scenario is a tall order for most trauma survivors. VR-based exposure therapy goes one step further: the patient is an active participant in the scene, completely immersed in the traumatic incident. Merkle says, “You’re going back to the worst day of your life and living it over and over again.”

Photo credit.

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