PTSD in Women
PTSD in women, usually caused by abuse, is a life-impeding mental condition. Women who suffer from PTSD live their lives in constant fear of reliving their most horrific memories, an experience that happens regularly and can be triggered by almost anything. PTSD in women is persistent and will not subside until it is properly treated. Treatment for PTSD is a long-term process, and does not yield immediate results. It may also involve a great deal of emotional work on the part of the patient. However, entering treatment is the only strategy proven effective as a cure for PTSD in women.
WHAT EXACTLY IS PTSD?
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental condition that arises in many individuals after exposure to or involvement in profoundly disturbing situations. These situations, which can be referred to as traumatic events, can be dramatically diverse. One woman may develop PTSD after an incident of sexual or domestic abuse. Another may experience PTSD as the result of long-term neglect as a child. Still others may struggle with the disorder after surviving a natural disaster or near-death experience. Because trauma is an internal phenomenon, it is not dictated by the actuality of an experience, but by the individual’s reaction it. For this reason, two people may develop equally severe cases of PTSD as the result of experiences, which seem from the outside to differ significantly in degree of trauma. Similarly, two people who survive the same traumatic experience may have different psychological reactions, one of them developing PSTD while the other continues to live normally.
PTSD in women manifests by way of persistent flashbacks to past traumatic events. These flashbacks can be triggered by any sensory input that resembles the environment where the original event occurred. Essentially, this means that a woman with PTSD must be constantly vigilant of her surroundings, else she be suddenly transported back to the most terrible experiences of her life. Because this prospect is so threatening, PTSD in women can also cause reclusiveness and social anxiety. Many women attempt to keep flashbacks in check by simply remaining at home, where surroundings are controlled and predictable. No person should have to live this way.
The other extreme symptom of PTSD in women is dissociation. Dissociation, a disconnecting of the mind from any emotional register of a person’s surroundings, functions as a protective barrier against stimuli that might trigger a flashback. The mind dissociates as a means of self-preservation, but it does not have the capacity to predict the problems this coping technique can cause in the long run. While PTSD sufferers who have a tendency to dissociate are able to leave their homes without risking unexpected flashbacks, they face the serious risk of completely losing the ability to access emotions and memories that are stored within their own minds.
TREATING PTSD IN WOMEN
When treating PTSD in women, dissociative patterns are a huge barrier that must be overcome before any real progress can be made. Gradually and carefully, the emotions and memories that these women have buried for so long must be excavated. This process is inevitably painful, and can traumatize a person further if executed poorly. Because trauma is essentially a violation, trauma treatment must proceed in a manner that does not compromise the patient’s sense of safety. Though some parts of PTSD treatment will be emotionally uncomfortable for those who have grown accustomed to lack of emotion, it is extremely important that this discomfort is limited by a slow and steady treatment progression. If a patient is forced into emotional or mental territory where they do not feel secure, they will once more shut down emotionally, nullifying any progress that has been made up to that point.
METHODOLOGY IN TREATING PTSD IN WOMEN
There are several methods of treating PTSD in women that have proven success, especially when applied in conjunction with one another. The standard model for PTSD treatment is the cognitive-behavioral model. In this type of therapy, a trauma victim works one-on-one with a psychologist to inventory and assess traumatic experiences and their affects on the patient’s ability to function in the present. Once this thorough assessment is complete, the therapist begins to provide coping techniques that the patient can implement when she is exposed to stimuli that have the potential to trigger a flashback. Through breathing patterns, self-affirmation mantras, distraction techniques and other tools, the patient begins to rewire her own brain in such a way that flashback-triggering stimuli lose their power.
The cognitive-behavioral model of PTSD treatment is proven to work, but many trauma victims come into treatment in such a state of collapse that they are completely unprepared to begin the first segment of the process, which involves extensive communication about traumatic experiences. For these patients, alternative therapies like art therapy, experiential therapy and equine therapy are incredibly productive. These practices allow patients to explore the memories and emotions surrounding past trauma in an indirect fashion. Because trauma is a profoundly visceral experience, memories of trauma often fail to fit cleanly into a verbal description. Expression through alternative means can help patients come to terms with their history of trauma, preparing them for the next step in recovery.
Other types of therapeutic practice that have proven successful as components of a PTSD treatment program are hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). These two practices utilize distinct methods to access trauma in the subconscious mind, and aim to reprogram the brain so that stimuli, which once induced panic, will instead trigger rational and calming thoughts.
LIFE BEYOND PTSD
Trauma victims who develop PTSD are in no way culpable for the the events that led to their mental disease, however they are the only ones who have the power to change it. Unlike physical illnesses, PTSD can only be treated by means of the patient’s willingness to engage in an emotionally and mentally painful process. In order to experience life beyond PTSD, a patient must have the courage to first endure the vulnerable period that constitutes the first phase of recovery. Any woman suffering from PTSD will know that the prospect of freedom from past trauma is more than worth the journey.
At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, these issues and others, such as sex and love addiction, are addressed based on the client’s needs. Safe Harbor is a loving community of women that grow together in sobriety. If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the grips of PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, or any of the aforementioned mental health disorders, call us today at 877-660-7623. We are here to help.