Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health condition that can lead to feelings of intense anxiety and distress. However, along with availing of professional treatment, adopting certain strategies for coping with PTSD can help facilitate a faster recovery.
How To Deal With PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder not only affects your cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being but also your ability to function in daily life.
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However, the symptoms can be effectively overcome 1 with the help of psychotherapy and medication.
Along with professional treatment, adopting certain healthy ways of coping with PTSD can ensure better treatment outcomes. Sometimes, people resort to drugs and alcohol 2 to manage PTSD. While these substances can provide temporary relief, they may not help overcome PTSD in the long run as they can easily become addictive and cause more harm than good.
Thus, experts recommend healthier coping strategies for PTSD that can also reduce the risk of developing other comorbid conditions 3, like eating disorders, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, etc.
Some of these skills for coping with PTSD are discussed below.
1. Learn about PTSD
It can be difficult to find solutions to an unknown problem. Understanding your trauma and the symptoms you are suffering from, also known as ‘psychoeducation 4’ is therefore considered the first step toward recovery. Learning about PTSD can also help you better explain what you are experiencing to a healthcare professional or your loved ones.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps to relax our body and calm our mind by bringing our awareness into the present moment without any judgment 5. Mindfulness-based interventions 6 are often incorporated into therapy to facilitate better coping with PTSD flashbacks.
The practice of mindfulness has also been associated with fewer PTSD symptoms 7. In fact, using mindfulness-based strategies for coping with post traumatic stress disorder has been specifically related to lower levels of substance abuse 8 in PTSD.
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Numerous studies 9 have found physical exercise to be associated with decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Going to a gym, doing a cardio routine at home, or even something as simple as a 10-minute walk every day can significantly help alleviate symptoms such as low mood.
4. Maintain a journal
Writing allows you to freely express your thoughts and emotions and has been indicated in the improvement of mental and emotional well-being. Expressive writing 12 and journaling can be excellent self-help strategies for coping with PTSD triggers.
Studies 13 have also found that narrative writing can not only relieve PTSD symptoms but also reduce anger, facilitate post-traumatic growth and enhance coping abilities.
5. Join a support group
Peer support groups can greatly help a person in coping with PTSD nightmares and other symptoms. Knowing and interacting with other people who have gone through similar trauma can provide a sense of interconnectedness and belonging.
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Here are some additional tips for coping with PTSD that you may find helpful:
- Follow a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and maintaining good sleep hygiene.
- Try to avoid smoking, coffee, alcohol, and illegal drugs.
- Socialize with your friends and family.
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member openly and honestly.
- Engage in self-care practices, like getting a massage, or a spa.
- Set small and realistic goals for yourself.
- Do things that you enjoy, like eating good food, listening to relaxing music, or pursuing a hobby.
Natural Ways Of Coping With PTSD
According to recent research 16, some strategies that may prove beneficial in coping with PTSD are
- Qigong and Tai Chi
- Herbal and dietary supplements
- Art Therapy, and
- Animal-Assisted Therapy
However, these methods must be undertaken under the guidance and supervision of experts from the field.
Read More About How PTSD Can Be Treated
Helping A Loved One With PTSD
PTSD not only affects the patient but can also have adverse effects on the emotional health of the people around them. In fact, caring for a loved one with PTSD can be quite challenging.
Here are a few tips for you to better support someone who is coping with PTSD:
- Learn 17 about the disorder, including its symptoms, and treatment options. This can help you understand your loved one better and respond to them accordingly.
- Encourage them to seek treatment for their condition and help them follow through with the treatment plan.
- Learn to identify and thereby manage triggers that may lead to a PTSD symptom such as a flashback.
- Ask them how you can help them feel better but make sure to give them enough space.
- Don’t force them to talk about the traumatic event but try to listen patiently if they confide in you.
- Show your commitment and support in whatever way you can.
- Understand that their behavior is a result of their trauma and try not to blame yourself.
- Seek help from others if you find the process too overwhelming.
- Join a support group for family members of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder to discuss and learn from others in your situation.
- Take some time off to engage in self-care as well.
- Seek therapy to cope with your challenges, like stress, worry, and frustration, if needed.
You must take care of yourself and protect your thoughts and emotions from the despair around you. Keep in mind that there is only so much you can do and try not to hold yourself responsible for what your loved ones are going through.
Seeking professional treatment is the first and most important step when trying to overcome PTSD. However, in addition to therapy and medications, learning and implementing the right PTSD coping strategies and skills can be highly beneficial in your healing journey.
Engaging in self-care for PTSD can make the recovery process smoother, enabling you to better manage PTSD symptoms and live a healthier, more meaningful life.
At A Glance
- PTSD can prove to be quite a debilitating condition but several strategies can help deal with it better.
- Coping with PTSD can be easier with the help of mindfulness, exercise, journaling, and support groups.
- Apart from these, there are several alternative ways for coping with PTSD such as yoga, art therapy, and animal-assisted therapy.
- Living with someone who has PTSD can also be overwhelming. Learning about the disorder and various ways to respond to someone who is coping with PTSD can make us more sensitive.
- Lancaster, C. L., Teeters, J. B., Gros, D. F., & Back, S. E. (2016). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Overview of Evidence-Based Assessment and Treatment. Journal of clinical medicine, 5(11), 105. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm5110105
- Smith, N. D. L., & Cottler, L. B. (2018). The Epidemiology of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol research : current reviews, 39(2), 113–120.
- Kessler, R. C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C. B. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of general psychiatry, 52(12), 1048–1060. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.1995.03950240066012
- Whitworth J. D. (2016). The Role of Psychoeducation in Trauma Recovery: Recommendations for Content and Delivery. Journal of evidence-informed social work, 13(5), 442–451. https://doi.org/10.1080/23761407.2016.1166852
- Lang, A. J. (2017). Mindfulness in PTSD treatment. Current Opinion in Psychology, 14, 40–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.10.005
- Hofmann, S. G., & Gómez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 40(4), 739–749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008
- Smith, B. W., Ortiz, J. A., Steffen, L. E., Tooley, E. M., Wiggins, K. T., Yeater, E. A., Montoya, J. D., & Bernard, M. L. (2011). Mindfulness is associated with fewer PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, physical symptoms, and alcohol problems in urban firefighters. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(5), 613–617. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025189
- Bowen, S., De Boer, D., & Bergman, A. L. (2017). The role of mindfulness as approach-based coping in the PTSD-substance abuse cycle. Addictive behaviors, 64, 212–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.08.043
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- Hegberg, N. J., Hayes, J. P., & Hayes, S. M. (2019). Exercise Intervention in PTSD: A Narrative Review and Rationale for Implementation. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 133. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00133
- Newman, C. L., & Motta, R. W. (2007). The effects of aerobic exercise on childhood PTSD, anxiety, and depression. International journal of emergency mental health, 9(2), 133–158.
- Smyth, J. M., Hockemeyer, J. R., & Tulloch, H. (2008). Expressive writing and post-traumatic stress disorder: effects on trauma symptoms, mood states, and cortisol reactivity. British journal of health psychology, 13(Pt 1), 85–93. https://doi.org/10.1348/135910707X250866
- Sloan, D. M., Sawyer, A. T., Lowmaster, S. E., Wernick, J., & Marx, B. P. (2015). Efficacy of Narrative Writing as an Intervention for PTSD: Does the Evidence Support Its Use?. Journal of contemporary psychotherapy, 45(4), 215–225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-014-9292-x
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