PTSD (or post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem. It affects about 7-8% of the population. It typically occurs after someone has experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event. These events may include war combat, a natural disaster, abuse or assault, an accident, illness or sudden death of a loved one. Symptoms of PTSD include anxiety, depression, social isolation, sleep trouble and nightmares, aggression, avoiding talking to anybody else about thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event, and refusal to do certain things tied to the trauma due to fear.
Treatments for PTSD include the use of medications, therapy or counseling, group and family support, yoga, exercise, meditation and other forms of managing stress through self-care.
5 Natural Treatments for PTSD
1. Therapy & Counseling
Various types of psychotherapy (talk therapy) are used to help people overcome PTSD. The type of therapy depends on their situation and access to professional care. Although many patients report experiencing increased distress during initial therapy sessions, as they get accustomed to discussing traumatic memories, one study found that talking about trauma in therapy sessions resulted in 86 percent of participants showing improvement in their PTSD and psychotic symptoms by the end of treatment. One type that has been shown to be very effective is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in which thoughts are examined in order to determine how they affect behaviors and self-perception.
2. Desensitization & Exposure to Fears
In addition to common types of talk therapy, several forms of exposure therapy are also used to desensitize patients to perceived threats, relieve stress and help them to face fears directly. A professional therapist usually conducts exposure therapy. The therapist can be a guide as the patient gradually faces situations, objects or locations that bring up strong feelings of the traumatic event.
Prolonged Exposure (PE) — This is a type of therapy that involves discussing, facing and recalling the traumatic event in detail in order to gain control over upsetting thoughts, physical reactions and feelings about the trauma. The idea is that the more someone discusses the upsetting event, the more familiar it becomes and therefore the less feared. There are different ways to expose the patient to their fears. These include using imagining, writing, drawing or painting, or visiting the place where the event happened.
Cognitive restructuring — This approach is similar to CBT and other forms of exposure therapy. It helps people make sense of the bad memories by discussing them. Feelings of regret, guilt and shame are often a central component to talk about since they can contribute to the patient feeling “stuck.”
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) — This involves having the patient focus their attention on physical movement or sensations (like breath, sounds or hand movements) while they recall the trauma and talk about it openly. By doing this, they have something to ground their attention in order to help their brain work through the traumatic memories.
3. Yoga & Meditation
In research supported by the National Institutes of Health, patients that took part in a ten-week program including yoga and mind-body practices on average experienced markedly reduced PTSD symptoms, even patients who had failed to respond to any previously used medications. Yoga has been shown to change the brain by helping to increase “happy” neurotransmitters, reducing the effects of stress, helping to improve coping mechanisms for negative feelings, and more. Participants in the study learned ways to help increase five specific types of positive, comforting feelings. These feelings are gratitude and compassion, relatedness, acceptance, centeredness and empowerment (GRACE).
Research suggests that another reason that yoga and other forms of mind-body practices work so well for reducing PTSD symptoms is that they positively impact the nervous system. This is because they can change chemical signals sent via the vagus nerve back to the brain. The vagus nerve is a large bundle of fibres that connects the brain with many internal organs. Researchers believe that about 80% of the fibres that make up the vagus nerve run from the body into the brain. Studies have found that we can directly influence the type of hormonal and chemical signals sent from the body to the brain. This means signalling to the brain if we should feel aroused versus relaxed depending on how we manipulate our body.
Some of the ways that PTSD patients can directly tap into their body’s “relaxation response” include: controlled breathing, stretching or moving in purposeful ways (i.e. yoga asanas), chanting songs or mantras with a group, and practicing dozens of styles of meditation. These methods have been utilized to help people deal with stress for thousands of years, dating back to the origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine, many religious practices, and yoga.
4. Social & Family Support
One of the strongest predictors of being able to overcome PTSD is “building resilience” through social support and close relationships. Certain factors can help increase resilience that reduces the risk for long-term symptoms tied to stress, including:
- Joining a support group, which helps to decrease feelings of isolation and alienation by opening up to others and forming compassionate relationships
- Visiting a family therapist in order to increase support from family, spouses, children or close friends.
- Finding a spiritual or faith-based support group that can offer encouragement, an outlet, hope and positive feedback
- Social support also helps to reduce aggression. It teaches those with PTSD how to respond to fear or other negative feelings without shutting others out. It also can give life a sense of purpose or meaning.
5. Self Care & Stress Management
In addition to getting support from others, self-care is crucial for managing stress and triggers. Experts recommend some of these strategies for reducing anxiety and sources of stress in your life:
- Engaging in regular, but usually mild, physical activity or exercise
- Getting enough sleep and down time
- Being patient, including having realistic goals for how long it can take to feel better
- Reducing work-related stress and not taking on too much at once
- Spending more time in nature and with other people who help you feel comforted
- Becoming more knowledgeable about the condition through reading, journaling, speaking with a professional, videos, podcasts, etc.
Today is PTSD Awareness Day. PTSD is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Help spread the word and raise awareness about PTSD treatments! Highlighted below is a list of trusted businesses that we believe can aid you or a loved one struggling with the symptoms of PTSD.
Inside Out Wellness Centre - Top Wellness Centre in Vaughan of 2018
Moksha Yoga Aurora - Top Yoga Studio in Aurora/Newmarket of 2018
Modo Yoga Austin - Top Yoga Studio in Austin of 2018
Hot Yoga Wellness Brampton - Top Yoga Studio Brampton of 2018
Breathe Hot Yoga - Top Yoga Studio Calgary of 2018
Ahimsa Yoga Whitby - Top Yoga Studio Durham Region of 2018
Prana Yoga Studio - Top Yoga Studio Edmonton of 2018
Pilates in Guelph - Top Yoga Studio Guelph of 2018
Rio Pilates & Yoga Studio - Top Yoga Studio Halifax of 2018
Bikram Yoga Hamilton/Dundas - Top Yoga Studio Hamilton of 2018
Pralaya Yoga Studio - Top Yoga Studio Houston of 2018
Moksha Yoga Kingston - Top Yoga Studio Kingston of 2018
Midtown Yoga - Top Yoga Studio Kitchener/Waterloo of 2018
Shangrila Yoga Studio - Top Yoga Studio London of 2018
Indaba Yoga Studio - Top Yoga Studio London, England of 2018
Moksha Yoga Markham - Top Yoga Studio Markham of 2018
Power Yoga - Top Yoga Studio Mississauga of 2018
PranaShanti Yoga Centre - Top Yoga Studio Ottawa of 2018
Moksha Yoga Uptown - Top Yoga Studio Toronto of 2018
Semperviva Yoga - Top Yoga Studio Vancouver of 2018
Moksha Yoga Maple - Top Yoga Studio Vaughan of 2018
Found City Yoga - Top Yoga Studio Victoria of 2018
Breathe Pilates and Fitness Studio - Top Yoga Studio Windsor of 2018
Awesome Hot Yoga And Barre - Top Yoga Studio Winnipeg of 2018