Trauma-induced changes in genes could cause post-traumatic stress disorde

Traumatic experiences “biologically embed” themselves in select genes, subsequently alter their functions and lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a study has revealed.

Conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the study is the first large scale investigation to search for trauma-induced changes in the genes of people with PTSD.

“Our findings suggest a new biological model of PTSD in which alteration of genes, induced by a traumatic event, changes a person’s stress response and leads to the disorder,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, principal investigator of the study.

“Identification of the biologic underpinnings of PTSD will be crucial for developing appropriate psychological and/or pharmacological interventions, particularly in the wake of an increasing number of military veterans returning home following recent wars worldwide,” he added.

Previous studies have found that lifetime experiences may alter the activity of specific genes by changing their methylation patterns.

Methylated genes are generally inactive, while unmethylated genes are generally active.

In the new study, DNA samples were obtained from participants in the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS), a longitudinal epidemiologic study investigating PTSD and other mental disorders in the city of Detroit.

The researchers analyzed the methylation patterns of over 14,000 genes from blood samples taken from 100 Detroit residents, 23 of whom suffer from PTSD.

The analysis found that participants with PTSD had six to seven times more unmethylated genes than unaffected participants, and most of the unmethylated genes were involved in the immune system.

The observed methylation changes in the immune system genes were reflected in the PTSD participants’ immune systems levels of antibodies to a herpes virus were high in PTSD patients, indicative of a compromised immune system.

While people who experience severe trauma will exhibit a normal stress response, in PTSD, the stress response system becomes deregulated and chronically overactive causing compromised immune functioning.

PTSD has long been linked to increased risk of numerous physical health problems – including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study suggests why PTSD is so strongly associated with physical health problems – trauma exposure causes epigenetic changes in immune system genes and thus, compromised immune functioning putting individuals at risk for a host of disorders.

“Our findings show that PTSD may be associated with epigenetic changes in immune-system genes. If this is the case, these clusters could provide clues to our understanding of how a traumatic event changes gene expression, thus altering immune function and resulting in other possible physiologic alterations,” said Galea.

The findings are published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

PTSD Recovery

For those who have suffered from traumatic experiences and are left with the damaging and overwhelming effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD recovery is possible.

Trauma survivors who suffer from PTSD can often become stuck with problematic behaviors when the person’s pain is not acknowledged, heard, respected, and understood. Denial can play a huge role (convincing themselves that the traumatic event didn’t happen or that it should not affect them) and survivors can become and stay trapped when other forms of secondary wounds come into play, such as being put down by those around them or having their pain dismissed.

The first and most important thing to know is that not only it is completely normal to be affected by trauma, but that help is available. PTSD is not at all unusual or rare, and having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of a traumatic experience does not make a person weak. Asking for help takes courage.


PTSD recovery is a slow process which doesn’t come easily or painlessly. The survivor must be heard, feel understood, and reconnect to a community.

The basic and general steps of a PTSD recovery program provide helpful guidelines. They include: being in an environment that is both physically and emotionally safe, getting treatment for addictive behaviors, being met with patience (PTSD recovery takes time), forming caring attachments, restoring a sense of mastery, having the room for rest and relaxation, recalling the traumatic event or events in small steps, gradually assimilating painful feelings and memories, fully experiencing fear, anger, shame, guilt and depression and finally a person must be able to safely grieve one’s losses.

It is perfectly normal for a person to be affected by the trauma they have experienced, but it does not mean that the aftermath has to leave the person forever damaged. PTSD recovery is about healing one’s life. Yes, trauma will leave a person scarred, but what a person will find in PTSD recovery is that they will also know what to do if the pain comes up again.

There is no rush in PTSD recovery. Recovery is based on acceptance. A person understanding that they have been traumatized and accepting that it did affect them is the first step. PTSD symptoms – such as numbing, hypervigilance or reexperiencing – are warning signs that it is time to seek help. At one time these coping mechanisms helped the person suffering from PTSD survive, but eventually these same defenses become problematic – and they don’t go away on their own. Instead they warp and become both ineffective and a source of unvarying pain. The great news is that it is possible to change.

The first principle of PTSD recovery is that it is perfectly okay to be in pain. If a trauma survivor is in pain, they must be honest about being in pain in order to begin the process of recovering from their PTSD. Since the person clearly survived the pain of the actual trauma, they must understand that they can also survive the memories. In order to garner an understanding of PTSD recovery, however, the person does need to know at least a part of what they have survived in order to reconnect their feelings to those events and mourn their losses.

It is important for trauma survivors to not only be treated with respect but to learn to treat themselves with respect and for them to respect their experiences and their problems. Their PTSD symptoms are circumstantial evidence that they’ve been through a lot. Many trauma survivors minimize the effects of what they’ve been through and then wind up resenting people for not respecting their pain. This is also normal, but it’s not very effective.

For many years, 12-step programs were the only available help to trauma survivors who self-medicated by abusing alcohol or drugs. Thousands of veterans, rape, incest and domestic violence survivors and others have dealt with PTSD by going to Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and other 12-step programs.

The 12-step programs are still a fundamental part of PTSD recovery today, and essential for trauma survivors who have turned to drugs and alcohol to cope, but there is also more intensive help to go hand-in-hand with the recovery process. Entering into an individualized recovery home that includes EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Cognitive Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brief Psychodynamic Therapy, Family Therapy and Group Therapy, among other types of therapy, is an important option that is being exercised more and more each day. The problem is that not many of these homes are what they claim to be.

Safe Harbor Treatment Center for women is exactly what it claims to be – a safe haven for those who have suffered from traumatic experiences in their past. Safe Harbor puts endless resources at the fingertips of women looking for relief and freedom from the bondage of self and a real solution to their issues associated with their traumatic pasts.

It takes time to get better and getting better is the reward for taking the time to recover. Unfortunately, survivors of traumatic experiences are often told, “It’s in the past. Forget about it and get on with your life.” If it were only that simple, they would have done so. The truth of the matter is that a person can heal from their original trauma, and they can heal from the PTSD conditions that have plagued them since the trauma was first experienced.

For those who are looking for a program that is focused on PTSD recovery, it is important for them to know they are not alone. A person cannot heal if they are not allowed to feel. Safe Harbor Treatment Center for women can help. It is ok to ask for help.

Symptoms of PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects men and women all over the world. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur after traumatic events and it often prevents people from living happy and fulfilling lives.

It has been documented that women are much more likely to display PTSD symptoms and suffer from the disorder. Of those women exposed to a traumatic event, 20 percent will exhibit PTSD symptoms and 30 percent of those women will develop chronic PTSD.

PTSD symptoms are abundant and can often be confused with other mental ailments. It is important to not hide the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or deny them in any way, for doing so can interfere with a person’s diagnosis.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD was first recorded as Da Costa’s syndrome during the American Civil War and is often associated with military service. But it doesn’t only affect war veterans – it also affects civilian men, women, and children who have experienced particularly traumatic events.

PTSD occurs after a distressing event, like war, terrorism, torture, natural disasters, accidents, violence, or rape. Usually the disorder begins within three months of this experience, although the disorder can take years to appear in some cases. Common PTSD symptoms include extreme fear, depression and anxiety.

PTSD is caused by a traumatic event but there are also other things that can lead to a person being affected by PTSD. For example, the sufferer may have been predisposed to development of the disorder before their trauma occurred. Men and women with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, experiences of childhood physical abuse or neglect, or who have previously experienced sexual abuse, unwanted sexual contact, or rape are more likely to develop PTSD. It appears that these experiences can change the chemical balance of your brain, altering a person’s perceptions of fear and anxiety.

Some PTSD Symptoms

There are three categories of symptoms associated with the disorder: intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms.

1. Intrusion (re-experiencing the traumatic event): Intrusion symptoms arrive suddenly and occur when memories of the past event invade the life of a person who is suffering from PTSD. The most common intrusion symptom is the flashback. Flashbacks are vivid memories that can be triggered by sights, smells, or sounds, and cause you to relive the traumatic experience over and over again. These flashbacks can seem very real and are often detailed and filled with emotion. Another intrusion symptom is the nightmare, which can occur unexpectedly, causing extreme anxiety and fear.

2. Avoidance (emotional numbing): Avoidance symptoms describe a sufferer’s unconscious attempts to prevent remembering anything to do with the traumatic event. These signs of PTSD often interfere with family relationships, marriages, and careers. A person may avoid being with family and friends in order to hide their illness and they may also experience an overall feeling of numbness. The trauma survivor may alternate between feelings of intense emotion and simply no emotion at all. Consciously and unconsciously they will avoid reminders of the traumatic event or events in order to escape flashbacks. Depression is also as avoidance symptom.

3. Hyperarousal (increased arousal): Hyperarousal symptoms are the result of stimulated nerves and hormones. The PTSD sufferer may experience severe insomnia, trouble remembering the entire traumatic event, and difficulty concentrating. They may also experience irritability or explosions of emotion for no apparent reason and more frequent startling responses.

In addition to intrusion, avoidance and hyperarousal, PTSD symptoms can include physical symptoms. Not uncommon are headaches, stomach problems, dizziness, and chest pain, along with nausea, diarrhea, skin problems, rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure.

Different Types of PTSD

There are four types of PTSD and all of them involved the same PTSD symptoms. The only difference is the length of time by which a person’s PTSD symptoms have become observable.

The four different types of PTSD are:

1. Acute Stress Disorder: Acute stress disorder is diagnosed when symptoms occur within four weeks of the traumatic event and last for more than 2 days, but less than 4 weeks.

2. Acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Acute PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last for more than four weeks.

3. Delayed Onset Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: This form of PTSD may not appear until years after the initial traumatic experience.

4. Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: This form of PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last for more than 90 days. A person will likely experience lapses in PTSD symptoms for a number of days or weeks in a row, but your PTSD symptoms will always return.

If not dealt with properly and effectively, PTSD can cause major problems in a person’s life. It’s common that PTSD can cause other psychiatric problems including major depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and agoraphobia. PTSD also often leads to substance abuse problems, including alcohol and drug abuse.

The good news is that there are effective treatments for PTSD at Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women. At Safe Harbor’s Capella, we specialize in comprehensive treatment for women struggling with trauma and addiction. Capella is dedicated to providing women with a safe, loving, and affordable environment in which to heal the mind, body and spirit. Too often, women start on the path of recovery, but stop due to unresolved trauma. Capella will provide a holistic integrative program for emotional trauma to support women through the healing process around these issues.

Treatment of PTSD

Treatment of PTSD is imperative for the person who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Fortunately, there are currently many successful ways of treating PTSD. Psychological treatments, including both cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic treatments, have been found to be successful in helping people manage and reduce their PTSD symptoms.

There is a great need for treatment of PTSD as a diagnosis of PTSD can have a major impact on a person’s life. PTSD can negatively affect your mood, work, school, and relationships with family and friends. Fortunately, a number of different treatments for PTSD have been found to be effective in helping a person recover from the diagnosis.

A number of different treatments for PTSD are available that can help people successfully cope with the negative and widespread effects of this diagnosis, including individual or group therapy. Treatment of PTSD may be psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral in nature. It may also differ on the number of treatment sessions required. Regardless, there are many ways of effectively targeting the symptoms of PTSD.

For the psychological treatment of PTSD, these are just some of the following types of PTSD treatment that have been proven effective: cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. There are several more types of therapy available at Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, but this article will spotlight CBT and ACT.


When it comes to the treatment of PTSD, cognitive-behavioral therapy is an approach based on the idea that psychological problems arise as a result of the way in which a person interprets or evaluates situations, thoughts, and feelings, as well as our behaviors.

The goal of CBT is to help people learn healthier ways of coping with distressing thoughts, as well as reducing avoidance or other problematic behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse. The idea is that if someone can change how they evaluate their environment or thoughts and feelings, anxiety and avoidance may be reduced, improving a person’s mood and overall quality of life.

A number of techniques are used in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some common techniques are self-monitoring, cognitive restructuring and behavioral experiments.

In self-monitoring the therapist may first have the patient track (or monitor) their thoughts. The patient writes down thoughts they have in response to certain situations, especially those that bring about anxiety or another upsetting feeling. This helps the patient become more aware of how they evaluate their experience and the consequences of these evaluations, such as anxiety.

Once these evaluations are identified, the therapist may then help the patient gather evidence for and against these evaluations. This process is called cognitive restructuring. Through cognitive restructuring, the person may realize that their evaluations or interpretations of situations are not entirely accurate. They may also realize that, although thoughts often feel true, they are rarely based on fact.

Finally, the therapist will often ask the patient to take part in behavioral experiments. This involves having the patient test these new ways of looking at the world by going into situations where he or she may contact something that was once feared. By encountering something that was once feared and not experiencing any negative outcomes, the person will have even more evidence that their previous thoughts were not so accurate.


From an early age, we learn to label some experiences as bad and others as good. For example, sadness and anxiety are viewed as bad or negative emotions, and happiness and joy are good or positive emotions. It is understandable then that we try to limit painful experiences and maximize positive experiences. In particular, when we experience some kind of emotional pain, we tend to want to try and get away from it. However, in the long run, this avoidance may not be that effective.

Avoidance is not effective because emotional pain is a part of life. We cannot really avoid it. At some point everyone experiences uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, or anger. How we choose to respond to that emotional pain can determine whether we are able to get through that pain or whether we prolong and intensify it.

In fact, it is thought that trying to avoid or escape our inner experiences may be what leads to suffering and psychological disorders. For example, a person who has experienced a traumatic event may be constantly flooded by memories of that event, as well as anxiety and fear. As a result, the person may try to get some temporary relief through drugs or alcohol. This may work in the short term, but the alcohol or drugs will do nothing in the long run to alleviate that pain. In fact, it will likely cause the pain to become worse, as well as introduce a whole host of other problems.

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is a behavioral treatment that is based in the idea that suffering comes not from the experience of emotional pain, but from our attempted avoidance of that pain. It is used in the treatment of PTSD and other mental health disorders. Its overarching goal is to help people be open to and willing to have their inner experiences while focusing attention not on trying to escape or avoid pain (because this is impossible to do) but instead, on living a meaningful life.


PTSD rarely occurs alone. PTSD has been found to be co-occurring with a number of other mental health disorders, including depression, substance abuse disorders, anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder. Therefore, when it comes to treatment of PTSD, mental health professionals often take into account not only the symptoms of PTSD that a person might be experiencing, but other difficulties as well.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

PTSD Treatment Programs

PTSD Treatment Programs can help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a debilitating condition that dramatically encumbers the lives of trauma victims. PTSD treatment programs help these people regain the ability to lead normal healthy lives.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that is caused by traumatic experiences.  Essentially, PTSD manifests as an inability to cope with or move on from a traumatic event, trapping trauma victims in a perpetual cycle of reliving their most horrific experiences.  PTSD treatment programs aim to free trauma survivors from the constant fear of revisiting traumatic events – a fear that dominates the lives of those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The phenomenon of mentally re-experiencing past trauma is commonly referred to as a flashback.  Flashbacks, along with recurring nightmares about traumatic events are the fundamental symptom of PTSD.  The emotional turmoil that ensues with each flashback is a tremendous amount for the mind to process, which often leads to the phenomenon of dissociation, PTSD’s other key symptom.  Dissociation occurs when the mind shuts itself off from emotional input that may cause a flashback as a means of self-protection.  Though dissociative patterns may insulate a trauma survivor from emotional pain on a day-to-day basis, the mental barrier they create is strong and becomes a significant roadblock in recovery.  PTSD treatment programs work with individuals who have developed dissociative tendencies on reconnecting with their emotions and memories.  This step, though painful. must be taken in order for an individual to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.


PTSD treatment programs are designed to accommodate patients whose PTSD results from a wide variety of traumatic experiences.  Trauma is defined in terms of an individual’s personal reaction to a situation, not in terms of the situation itself.  Therefore, there is no concrete definition of what constitutes a traumatic event.  The definition is fluid and must be able to adapt to the experiences of all individuals who exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

That said, there are certain characteristics that tend to apply across the board to traumatic experiences.  The primary characteristic of any traumatizing event is a sense of violation.  In many cases, this takes the form of a physical violation (e.g. rape, incest, domestic violence).  In other cases, this may mean an emotional violation (e.g. loss of a loved one, childhood neglect).  A traumatic experience may also violate a person by forcing them to witness a violent or horrific act.  Though there is no strict definition of a traumatic event, it is easy to see how countless different experiences might traumatize an individual.  PTSD treatment programs work one-on-one with patients to ensure that each individual’s treatment plan is ideally suited to that individual’s particular trauma.  Tailoring the recovery program to the patient is an essential aspect of affective trauma treatment.


PTSD treatment programs work by helping trauma victims come to terms with their experiences and cultivate techniques for coping with flashbacks.  The delicate issue here is that because trauma is fundamentally a violation, treatment must be executed in a way that maintains the patient’s sense of safety and security at all times. This can be a very complicated prospect when progress in trauma treatment is often contingent upon facing horrifying memories and allowing difficult emotions to surface.

For some who enter PTSD treatment programs, a straightforward cognitive-behavioral approach is appropriate. The cognitive-behavioral model of PTSD treatment involves an in-depth assessment of the original trauma and its aftermath, followed by the development and implementation of a structured plan that will allow the patient to cope effectively with situations likely to trigger a flashback.

Others come into PTSD treatment programs completely incapable of speaking openly about past traumatic experiences. For these individuals, treatment has a different starting point. In order to coax these patients into slowly beginning to explore their trauma, alternative therapies are extremely productive.  Therapeutic approaches like equine therapy and art therapy offer trauma victims the opportunity to forge a non-verbal understanding of their experiences. Because traumatic experiences are so powerfully visceral, the brain stores memories of these experiences differently than it stores other memories. The physical bonding that takes place between patient and animal in equine therapy and the hand-eye explorative process that occurs in art therapy act as muses which help patients get in touch with the many levels on which they experienced and continue to relive their trauma.

Additional alternative therapies, namely hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), can be highly successful as supplements to more traditional cognitive-behavioral PTSD treatment programs. Operating under the same basic treatment model as cognitive-behavioral therapy, both of these disciplines seek to intervene in the patient’s mental processes by building new connections within the brain. In both cases, a structured protocol is used to allow more direct access to the subconscious, where many of a trauma victim’s memories and emotions surrounding trauma are stored.

Effective PTSD treatment programs recognize that no single type of therapy is universally applicable to trauma victims and no specific treatment plan will be successful for all patients. The best programs make a wide variety of treatment options available and encourage patients to experiment with different techniques in order to discover what feels right to them.


Though trauma survivors have no culpability in the situations that caused them to develop PTSD, it is up to these individuals to take recovery into their own hands. Though others who love them may want to help, trauma victims must find the motivation to overcome PTSD and the willingness to push through the exhausting emotional work that recovery entails within themselves. With this honest desire to be rid of the burden of PTSD and the therapeutic tools available in a trauma treatment program, victims of trauma have the chance to free themselves. The road may not be easy, but the reward is priceless.

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.

PTSD Treatment Medication


Though it can be an extremely useful component in PTSD treatment, medication is not in and of itself a solution to post-traumatic stress disorder.  Recovery from this debilitating mental condition depends upon thorough and intensive psychological treatment.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that results from the residual effects of profoundly disturbing, or traumatic, experiences. Because trauma is an internal phenomenon, it is dictated not by the outer descriptors of an event, but rather by the individual’s personal response to it.  Accordingly, traumatic experiences vary dramatically from case to case, but tend to share a theme of fundamental violation. Types of trauma typically associated with PTSD are physical abuse, sexual abuse, and involvement in violent situations, such as combat. Less physically intrusive experiences like verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, and untimely loss of a loved one can also cause an individual to develop PTSD.  No matter the specific incident or incidents that cause the disorder, the sense of violation that they produce unifies them in a way that allows a protocol to exist for PTSD treatment. Medication works alongside an arsenal of varied therapeutic approaches to give each patient as many tools as possible in PTSD recovery.

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three categories: Re-experience, avoidance, and hyper-arousal. The first of these categories, re-experience, is the predominant, other symptoms stemming from this problematic pattern of returning mentally to the scene of trauma. Upsetting and persistent thoughts about a traumatic event are common, as well as recurring nightmares about the event. More intense “flashbacks” are a key symptom of PTSD, in which the individual actually feels and acts as though they are reliving the original traumatic experience. The body may also physically respond to reminders of past trauma with increased heart rate or sweating.

The second category, avoidance, encompasses PTSD symptoms that display an individual’s wariness of situations that may trigger distressing memories or flashbacks, both consciously and unconsciously.  Individuals with PTSD often make a conscious effort to avoid talking, thinking or feeling emotions about past trauma. Accordingly, they also commonly choose to avoid people and places that remind them of a traumatic event. The mind of an individual with PTSD may also act of its own accord to aid in avoiding the re-experience of a traumatic event.  This often manifests as an inability to remember important details about a traumatic event. When a person’s brain begins to grow accustomed to patterns of avoidance, depressive side effects begin to develop.  Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, feelings of isolation, and difficulty connecting with positive emotions like affection or happiness are examples of this phenomenon.

Hyper-arousal symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability, and “jumpiness” can also be interpreted as attempts at self-protection.  Sleeping is an activity that requires complete vulnerability, a prospect that can be terrifying to a person suffering from PTSD.  Inability to fall or remain asleep, difficulty concentrating, and constant vigilance are all attempts, however misdirected, at protecting one’s self from further harm.

All of these varied symptoms are addressed in an effective program of PTSD treatment.  Medication is used in combination with therapeutic methods to alleviate symptoms, allowing the patient to resume living normally.


The rate of substance abuse problems amongst people with PTSD is shockingly high, with 31% having struggled with drug abuse or dependence and 40% with alcohol abuse or alcoholism. This abnormally high co-occurrence can be explained by the phenomenon of self-medication.

Many who suffer from PTSD are unaware that their problems are in fact a legitimate diagnosable disease.  Those who do have some understanding of the fact that their woes are the result of past traumatic experiences often feel that they are responsible for their dysfunctional state, or do not see it as something that can be cured. Unaware that PTSD treatment, medication, and therapy are all options that can improve their situations, many individuals who suffer from PTSD turn instead to alcohol and illegal drugs as emotional pain-killers.

For those whose lives are impeded on a day-to-day basis by symptoms of PTSD, alcohol and drugs present a welcome escape route.  Specifically, substances that fall into the depressant category function as “medication” for hyper-arousal symptoms of PTSD. Drugs that create a feeling of emotional numbness allow a person with PTSD to expose themselves to situations that might otherwise trigger an intense emotional reaction.

While drug and alcohol consumption may initially reduce PTSD symptoms, it is counterproductive as a long-term treatment strategy. When substances wear off, PTSD symptoms often return even stronger, and drug and alcohol abuse brings its own set of problems when it becomes a regular activity.  People who self-medicate for PTSD with alcohol and drugs increase the risk of incurring many undesirable consequences, such as depression, suicide, legal difficulties, medical complications, relationship problems, and psychiatric hospitalization.


When combined with other methods of PTSD treatment, medication (when taken as prescribed by a licensed professional) can be of great help in alleviating PTSD symptoms, and can help patients become more receptive to therapy.

Recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as effective in PTSD treatment, medication that falls into the category of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are widely prescribed for this application.  Medications in this family (e.g. Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil) reduce anxiety and depression in PTSD patients.

Though still being evaluated by the FDA, D-cylcloserine (DCS) may be even more effective in alleviating PTSD symptoms.  Known to separate memories from stimuli once associated with them, it may be effective as a means of decreasing the fear and panic PTSD patients experience when remembering a traumatic event.

Propanolol, a beta-blocker, may also be useful in PTSD treatment, as it has the potential to curb hyper-arousal symptoms like restlessness and insomnia.


Though it can be quite helpful in PTSD treatment, medication alone will not free an individual from PTSD.  Therapy must be used in tandem with medication if true progress is to be made. Medication is a fast-acting remedy that can lessen PTSD symptoms while other treatment continues, but PTSD sufferers must work thoroughly and gradually through the therapeutic aspect of treatment.  When used appropriately and as a supplement to therapy, medication is effective in treating PTSD, but it cannot stand on its own as a cure.

PTSD Symptoms


Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a psychological condition caused by living through emotionally and mentally scarring experiences. PTSD is a debilitating disorder, impairing the lives of trauma survivors by forcing them to live in fear as they perpetually re-experience traumatic events.


A traumatic event is an experience in which an overwhelming violation takes place.  In many cases, it is a physical violation (sexual or physical assault) that constitutes the traumatic experience.  However, verbal and emotional abuse (including neglect) can also violate an individual in a way that often results in trauma.  PTSD can result from the violation of an individual’s sense of love and safety, or their understanding of the world.  In cases where the trauma is rooted in the witnessing of a violent or destructive act, it is a person’s emotional self that becomes traumatized.

PTSD was first understood in the context of war veterans, whose physical experiences were numerous and incredibly violent.  However, the physical experiences were not the only traumatizing ones.  Witnessing the deaths of close friends and peers in such multitude was undoubtedly an emotionally traumatic experience for these men.  In these cases, as with many that originate in very different circumstances, the violation at the root of trauma is both physical and emotional.


Most PTSD symptoms relate to the phenomenon of re-experience, in which trauma survivors are brought vividly back to the scene of traumatic events.  This phenomenon is generally referred to as a “flashback.”  For those who suffer from PTSD, flashbacks can be brought on by any number of triggering situations – any experience that might call to mind the original traumatic event is a potential trigger. This means physical experiences, emotions, sounds, smells, locations and countless other aspects of every day life are constant threats to those who experience PSTD symptoms. The phenomenon of re-experience also occurs in the context of dreams.  Individuals with PTSD often experience recurring nightmares about past traumatic events.

Stemming from these re-experiences is another one of the key PTSD symptoms – dissociative tendencies.  Because the mind is wired for self-preservation, it has the capacity to distance itself from reality in traumatic situations. For many trauma survivors, dissociation is the mind’s default state.  In order to avoid living in a constant state of re-experiencing past trauma, the mind numbs itself to potentially triggering stimuli. As previously discussed, flashbacks can be triggered by a wide variety of things, which means that individuals who experience dissociative tendencies spend a large portion of their lives in a disconnected, zoned-out state.


In order to stifle PTSD symptoms, many victims of trauma end up resorting to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication.  These substances function in a similar way to mental dissociation, but both coping mechanisms are ineffective in the long run, leaving core issues buried inside and unresolved.  With substance abuse, there is the added negative consequence of becoming addicted, both physically and mentally.  It is a well-known fact that drugs are physically addictive, but the psychological aspect of addiction is less widely understood.  Especially for a victim of trauma who learns to depend on drugs and alcohol as a way to quiet PTSD symptoms, these substances are incredibly addictive psychologically.


PTSD symptoms are detrimental to the prospect of leading a normal life, which makes treatment incredibly important. Because of the nature of exploring past trauma, treatment for PTSD must be done delicately, and at a pace that suits the individual being treated.

In the initial phase of treatment, medication can help ease PTSD patients’ nerves, and help them cope with flashbacks and intense emotions when they arise, which is an inevitable part of the recovery process.  Effective PTSD treatment programs begin with an extensive individual evaluation, which helps counselors formulate a specialized treatment plan that is ideally suited to each individual. This evaluation will also help determine whether or not the patient is a candidate for medication.

Before any real emotional or psychological work can be done, it is imperative that patients come to feel comfortable in the treatment environment.  Because trauma is rooted in the feeling of violation, the healing process is contingent upon the patient feeling safe, secure and supported. PTSD treatment should, therefore, take place in an intimate setting, where clients come to know each other well and are able to support one another.

For female trauma victims, a gender-specific treatment facility makes it infinitely easier to cultivate this crucial sense of security.  Especially considering the fact that many of these women’s traumatic experiences centered around violation by men, keeping the recovery environment women-only is essential.  Getting to know other women and realizing that others are facing the same challenges that they face is also an empowering aspect of treatment.  By supporting one another in the exploration of their trauma, patients strengthen their own recovery.


For those women who find themselves burdened by PTSD symptoms as well as alcohol or drug dependency, a specialized dual-diagnosis treatment program is the best resource available. Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women treats women who struggle with both PTSD and alcoholism or drug addiction.  In order for either of these conditions to mend themselves, the other must be addressed. If a woman attempts to resolve past trauma while continuing to abuse substances, she will find that she is unable to process the emotions and memories that she must work through in order to move forward.  Conversely, if an alcohol or drug addicted woman attempts to quit drinking and using without working through residual trauma, she will find that her emotional and mental turmoil drive her back to substance abuse.

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.

PTSD Treatment


For people with unremitting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD treatment is a solution that includes several types of valuable therapy.

When traumatic experiences occur, there can be severe trauma to the body and brain and those who suffer from PTSD often find that their lives are disrupted on a daily basis as a result. PTSD treatment is available to help those suffering from PTSD, as they often turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism instead of effective therapy. The drug and alcohol abuse only increases the health risks and intense levels of psychological stress and fear already associated with PTSD.

The road to recovery from PTSD can be overwhelming at first, which makes effective PTSD treatment all the more important.


Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, also known as EMDR: IN EMDR, therapists utilize and repeat bilateral stimuli in order to arouse various areas of the brain for memory processing. Some examples of bilateral stimuli include audio tones, vibrating hand-held devices, tapping or light pulses. Additionally, therapists work with the client to focus on specific images or negative self-beliefs that add to the impact of the trauma the client has experienced. As the painless, external stimulation concurs with the therapeutic work, the trauma’s intensity reduces dramatically. EMDR as a form of PTSD treatment has proven highly successful and has shown to be healing for trauma survivors.

Cognitive Therapy (talk therapy): After a traumatic event, a person with PTSD is likely to blame themselves for the things they had no control over. In cognitive therapy, a therapist helps the client discover and change perspective on how their trauma and its aftermath are thought of, and also helps the person understand that the traumatic event they lived through wasn’t their fault. The goal is to understand how certain thoughts about the traumatic event can lead to more stress and only worsen the symptoms. Clients will learn to identify the thoughts about themselves and the world that make them feel afraid, upset and trigger the feelings associated with PTSD. With the help of a therapist and this type of PTSD treatment, the client will learn to cope with feelings such as fear, anger and guilt.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Similar to EMDR, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven extremely successful as a form of PTSD treatment when it comes to reducing or eliminating PTSD symptoms. Through behavioral conditioning, CBT uses positive reinforcement for favored outcomes as well as exposure therapy to eliminate triggers. It also looks to correct negative self beliefs in survivors of trauma. Unlike Cognitive Therapy, where the client simply talks about the problem, CBT attempts to identify the problematic patterns of behavior or thought and goes further to amend them through behavioral therapy. This appears to be one of the most effective forms of PTSD treatment.

Hypnotherapy: Sometimes hypnotherapy can be an effective form of PTSD treatment – particularly when the memories associated with the traumatic event have been suppressed, partially or fully, due to extreme emotional trauma. A hypnotherapist can actually access the subconscious mind and allow the buried or repressed memories to resurface in a safe environment. For those who have gone through such traumatic events that they cannot fully recall what exactly happened yet they are still displaying regular and persistent symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, hypnotherapy can be extremely helpful in PTSD treatment.

Art therapy: There are times, of course, when traumatic experiences are unspeakable in the eyes of the trauma survivor. For those that display the symptoms of PTSD and are not able to clearly verbalize their feelings associated with their traumatic experiences, art therapy can be a wonderful and non-threatening aid in PTSD treatment. This form of therapy gives the survivor a safe and creative outlet which can help express what they can’t yet speak. Often throughout the course of art therapy exercises, therapists spend time discussing the trauma themes with their patients that may have surfaced through the exercises.

There are, of course, other helpful methods that can be combined with the above-mentioned types of PTSD treatment. In addition to EMDR, Cognitive Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Art Therapy and in many cases medication, combining group therapy, brief psychodynamic psychotherapy, and in most cases family therapy, can also significantly aid in the process of a person recovering from PTSD.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women in California, these techniques and more are used for our clients suffering from the grip of drug and alcohol addiction. To go beyond substance abuse and into the realm of dual diagnosis, Safe Harbor has opened up the new Capella Treatment Center to provide intensive and comprehensive treatment for women struggling with trauma and addiction. Women suffering from PTSD, panic disorders, acute stress disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive/compulsive disorders, mood disorders and co-occurring addictions would have their individual needs met by a multi-disciplinary team.

The individualized treatment program is integrated with the current 12-step model and includes innovative techniques such as psychodrama, dialectical behavioral therapy, somatic therapy, EMDR, art therapy, systematic family therapy, equine therapy, recreational therapy, experiential therapy and yoga – all proven techniques in aiding in the recovery of trauma survivors.

We invite you to watch the video below and take the first step in starting your life over.