It's normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but most people improve naturally over a few weeks.
You should see a GP if you are still having problems about 4 weeks after the traumatic experience, or if the symptoms are particularly troublesome.
If necessary, your GP can refer you to mental health specialists for further assessment and treatment.
It's important to know that there is no one-size fits all. Trauma experiences are as individual as the person with them and finding what works for you may take some trial and error.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is effective in treating PTSD among people who have experienced a trauma like sexual assault, child abuse, combat, or natural disasters. CPT usually lasts 12 sessions and can be viewed as a combination of cognitive therapy and exposure therapy.7 CPT is like cognitive therapy in that it is based in the idea that PTSD symptoms stem from a conflict between pre-trauma beliefs about yourself and the world (for example, the belief that nothing bad will happen to you) and post-trauma information (for example, the trauma as evidence that the world is not a safe place).
Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing is a structured therapy that encourages the patient to focus briefly on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and PTSD symptoms.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a modified type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others. DBT was originally intended to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it has been adapted to treat other mental health conditions beyond BPD. It can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviours (such as eating disorders and substance use disorders). This type of therapy is also sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective form of psychological treatment that is practiced by many thousands of therapists worldwide. CBT theory suggests that our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behavior are all connected, and that what we think and do affects the way we feel. Thousands of research trials have demonstrated that CBT is an effective treatment for conditions from anxiety and depression to pain and insomnia. It is helpful across the lifespan – children, adolescents, adults, and older adults can all benefit. CBT is flexible too – it has been proven to be effective in face-to-face, online, and self-help formats.
Stress Inoculation Therapy
Stress inoculation training (SIT) is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Just as a vaccination against a particular disease helps your body respond quickly when it's exposed to that disease, in the same way, stress inoculation training prepares you to quickly defend against PTSD-related fear and anxiety when you’re exposed to reminders, or cues, that trigger these symptoms. By exposing you to milder forms of stress, your confidence is boosted so that you can respond quickly and effectively when trauma-related cues occur.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing in pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber, to increase the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood. It works in a similar way to the pressurized diving bells used by deep-sea divers to treat decompression sickness (the ‘bends’), which occurs when they resurface too quickly. Recent studies suggest that HBOT could be an effective treatment for PTSD, especially where other conventional treatments (such as medication or psychotherapy) haven’t worked so well. The research suggests that experiencing a traumatic event can cause physical changes in the brain. HBOT is thought to help increase neuroplasticity (the ability to form new connections) in the brain and help heal this physical damage. One study of military personnel with PTSD found that regular HBOT treatment over a 4-week period led to a significant reduction in symptoms: after HBOT, 52% no longer met the threshold criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.
People experiencing PTSD aren't routinely prescribed medication. However, you might be offered medication if: you also have depression you have sleep problems caused by PTSD you are unable or do not want to try talking treatments. If you are offered medication for PTSD, this will usually be an antidepressant. While PTSD is not the same as depression, this type of medication has been found to help. NICE recommends that doctors consider prescribing venlafaxine or a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Sertraline.
Complimentary Alternative Therapies
Complementary and alternative therapies cover lots of different treatments. These include body-based therapies, meditation-based therapies and herbal remedies, among others. The NHS offers some of these. Others are based on different ideas of healing and wellbeing than those we normally hear about in the UK.
Therapy Dogs (Animals)
Therapy dogs are pets that improve your health by giving emotional support. You can train your dog to be a therapy dog to provide support to yourself and to others. Therapy dogs live in people's homes. They can also visit a variety of settings, including retirement or nursing homes, schools, hospice homes, and hospitals. They are trained to be gentle and friendly and to accept strangers hugging them or petting them. They are patient and unbothered by children who tug at their fur or adults who want the smaller ones to sit in their laps. Therapy dogs are just one type of therapy animal. Other pets that can be used for emotional support are cats, rabbits, birds, horses—even llamas and alpacas.