You walk into a room to get your key, a sound is heard in the distance and suddenly your heart starts racing, your breathing is rapid and terror runs through your body. If you are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), even the slightest sound or movement can trigger your body to react.
As mentioned in Part 1, what causes your brain to activate the reactive brain can vary widely from person to person. Yet once the reactive brain takes over the brain/body system it virtually hijacks the responsive, thinking brain to realize the current, present situation is NOT the same and even if it is, how to respond to the situation rather than react to it.
If you’re reading this, it is probably because you’ve tried a wide variety of medications and treatments and you still wake up in the middle of the night with your heart racing or in a sweat. The focus of this blog is to present methods and treatment that definitely can help you regain control of your life, and help you restore your responsive brain, so you can choose, rather than react to events in your life.
As part of my 5 Prong Approach, I divide PTSD treatment methods into two categories: internal and external. Medication and biofeedback, what you eat, herbs, and homeopathic are external methods, while humor, exercise, hypnosis, and meditation are internal methods. I believe it is extremely important to know the internal methods, because there comes a time, when you may not have access to the external methods.
I’ve been a trauma therapist for over 37 years, and was at Logan Airport for the United Air crew after 911 as part of the Red Cross, Disaster Relief Network. Over my 37 years, I have found the following methods to be extremely effective. I’ve put a () after each method to help explain why that method either helps alleviate symptoms, or helps repair the dysregulated brain to respond again.
External Methods Vs. Internal PTSD Treatment Methods for Regaining Your Life
As mentioned above, internal methods require nothing from the external world to assist you in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD. These methods count on you and you alone:
- Heart Rate Variability Breathing (HRVB): This method inhibits/ prevents reactivity of autonomic reaction and allows time to respond.
- Hypnosis: This is similar to above, and with specific training, will teach you respond, rather than react.
- Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT)/Thought Field Therapy (TFT): This works with the “Chi” pronounced Chee or subtle energy in your body. By thinking of an event or the feeling and tapping specific acupuncture points, this immediately stops the feeling and/or thought. This is the method I used at Logan Airport to help the flight crew board the plane again.
- Energy Medicine: developed by Donna Eden, this method also uses the subtle energy “Chi” in the body. Several of her methods are extremely effective, such as the cross over.
All of these methods do take time to learn and there is a learning curve. Research and even brain mapping have shown that once you’ve learned these methods, it physically separates and repairs the neural connection that was made during the traumatic event.
- Meditation and Visualization: These methods help reduce PTSD symptoms, however do not change the neural connections, as do the previous methods.
- Dancing, drumming, exercise, yoga, Reiki, Ti Chi and QiGong: Any of these can be extremely effective, if you cross the midline of your body, which is the middle of your body from forehead, nose, down your body. If you do cross movement in any of these modalities, you are focusing the inner connections that are stuck in either hemisphere to be released. This is seen in the external method of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, known as EMDR, which is one of the most effective methods for helping PTSD.
- Humor and laughter: It is said that laughter is the best medicine and I totally agree. However, if you are lucky to find humor when your body is reacting, good luck. It is a wonderful means of calming the body, because it puts out the needed chemicals, endorphins, that soothe the body and allows the thinking, responsive brain to take charge.
The following external methods require something external to help your PTSD. This category is subdivided between those externals methods that help symptoms of PTSD and those that can resolve it. The latter subcategory is not a cure; however this area goes beyond relieving the symptoms. This category helps with neural connections and brain dysregulation. Hence the events that might trigger you in the past will be markedly decreased or not there at all, without having to continue ongoing treatment.
External Symptom Relief
- Medication - Prescription and Over the Counter (OTC): Various medications are excellent for symptom relief for PTSD, however often the brain gets used to the medication and it stops working. Thus, another medication needs to be use. Also, with medication there are possible side-effects. Lastly, there is the continuous need to use the medication, because when stopped the symptoms do return. If you are choosing to use OTC, it is advised to consult with your primary care or PTSD specialist before taking any medication. You don’t want to make your symptoms worse.
- Acupuncture: This too is very effective for symptom relief. After one treatment, often the frequency of treatment can be reduced and the symptoms do not persist. However, acupuncture does not change the neural connections or dysregulation of the brain activity, which means if there is something that triggers you, the symptoms will return.
- Homeopathic- including Bach Flower Essence and Herbal Remedies: Please do not self-medicate. When dealing with PTSD, go to a certified practitioner in the various fields of homeopathic and herbal remedies. The practitioners have been trained to help you make the proper choice that will help with your symptoms. You don’t want to risk making any of your symptoms worse.
- Talk Therapy- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): This is an extremely effective method for helping you understand what is causing your symptoms and new ways of thinking about how to manage them. Currently it is considered the “Gold Standard” of methods for PTSD treatment, and is covered under many Insurance policies.
- Cranial Electro Stimulation (CES): This is a FDA medical device for the various symptoms and is highly effective.
- Massage: such as reflexology or Feldenkrais Method
- Energy Work: Reiki, Polartiy, Quantum Touch
- Brain Spotting: Developed by David Grand, Ph.D., this method deals with eye gaze and fixation, helping resolve the area in the brain that is stuck from the trauma.
External Methods that Change Neural Connections
- Hypnosis: This method has been used for centuries to help with trauma, including the method of age regression. There is extensive research on the topic of trauma that has proven highly effective in reducing or eliminating PTSD. There is a limitation if a person’s trauma is related to a brain injury, since it is extremely important to be able to focus and concentrate.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, has been researched, and this method is used by most of the leading trauma centers in the US.
- Biofeedback: This field includes thermal, muscular and neurofeedback. Heart rate variable breathing is a subdivision of biofeedback. This field has been researched and double blind studies have shown the proven effects of this method.
- Neurofeedback: This field is made up of various companies and methods, some of which are FDA approved medical devices, and there is substantial double blind research of the various treatments modalities. The research has shown that with Neurofeedback, it is possible to make new neural connections, disconnect those that are currently being activated, and regulate the dysregulated brain that is seen with PTSD. Caution: because this is a relatively new field, there are companies and practitioners that have limited training and do NOT have FDA approved medical device equipment. To ensure you are going to a qualified practitioner for PTSD, they should be licensed in some area of mental health or are board certified (BCIA). There are two major organizations. One is the (AAPB) Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Inc. www.aapb.org. The other is (ISNR) International Society of Neurofeedback www.isnr.net. Both websites provide a list of practitioners and their specializations.
- Sound Therapy: This method allows for remapping of neural connections and has been shown to resolve brain dysregulation. Some of the methods are the Tomatis System, bilateral sounds and hemi-sync.
- Light Therapy: In recent years under biofeedback, light therapy and infra-red treatment have been successfully used for brain dysregulation and helping to promote neural connections.
As mentioned above, I’ve been a trauma therapist for over 37 years and have worked with a wide variety of causes that result in PTSD, such as warfare, sexual abuse, psychological trauma, attachment issues and brain injury, to name a few. Some of the methods presented are the core methods that I know have worked successfully, while for others I use a wide variety of methods.
Choosing the PTSD treatment or method that is best for you can be a process of trial and error. Through my integrative, 5 Prong Approach, which views each person as unique, I believe there is no single program, method or treatment that works for everyone all the time. Therefore you are provided with a customized for your specific needs.
It is important to know that there is hope and help for you to overcome your PTSD symptoms. There is A Way!
If you are having difficulty figuring out the appropriate treatment, you can contact us for a customize consult to help you find the appropriate treatment and help you find a clinician near where you are located.
PTSD: Healing and Recovery Part 2 Copyright © 2014 Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.