June 27 was National Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day. Although PTSD can sometimes be a term that is used jokingly or to describe a reaction to a common occurrence, it is a condition that can seriously impact a person’s relationships and quality of life. It affects more than 9 million people in the United States alone.

Events such as serious accidents, sexual abuse, physical abuse, combat in war, natural disasters or serious injury are commonly reported by those diagnosed with PTSD. Though symptoms can vary from person to person, PTSD includes four categories of symptoms:

1. Intrusion – thoughts, images, dreams or flashbacks of the traumatic event.

2. Avoidance – the efforts to avoid people, places and activities that can remind the person of the traumatic event

3. Changes in thoughts and mood – feeling guilty, blaming others, detaching from relationships or ongoing beliefs that are not based on facts

4. Changes in functioning –increased arousal or anger, reckless behavior, decreased sleep or feeling increased suspicion of others.

When a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, they may develop PTSD symptoms immediately or some time after the event. The good news is there are evidence-based treatments available locally to help people heal from the debilitating symptoms.

Three leading treatments for PTSD are:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This therapy helps understand the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Behavioral skills help the person stop cycles of experiencing the trauma and learn new ways of coping.

2. Prolonged Exposure Therapy –This therapy is often combined with CBT in treatment. It helps the person decrease reactions to trauma memories while learning how to effectively cope with PTSD symptoms. This treatment addresses flashbacks, physical distress and nightmares.

3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This therapy uses a series of guided movements (eye movements) that assist with processing traumatic memories while decreasing the distress related to the traumatic memory.

The first step in starting the recovery process is to reach out for help. Solvista Health has mental health professionals trained to provide the three leading treatments for PTSD. There is life after trauma, and Solvista Health supports individuals in their path to recovery. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 719-275-2351. Or, get started online at www.solvistaconnect.org.

Christal Rothrock, LPC, DBT-LBC, is Solvista Health program supervisor.

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