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The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD

Reclaim your life with cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD, a supportive strategy for managing trauma symptoms and healing from your symptoms.

Table of Contents

Understanding PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition. It may occur when you experience or witness a scary, shocking, or dangerous event. Receiving cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help you work through your trauma and get the support you deserve.

cognitive behavioral therapy for ptsd

Prevalence and Impact of PTSD

PTSD occurs more often than you might think. In the United States, about 6 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives, which is around 18 million people. Post-traumatic stress disorder can happen to anyone, no matter their age, race, or gender.1

Finding the right treatment for PTSD can help you feel better and heal from your trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma and its aftermath. It can teach you new ways to react to the thoughts and feelings that come up because of your PTSD.

Types of PTSD

PTSD can present itself in many different ways. Here are some common types of PTSD:

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

Acute stress disorder is a type of PTSD that happens soon after a traumatic event. It usually only lasts for a short time, generally no more than a month. If you have ASD, you might feel a lot of fear or anxiety. You might also replay the event in your mind or have trouble sleeping.

Delayed-Onset PTSD

Sometimes, PTSD doesn’t show up right away. It can take months or even years for symptoms to start. This is called delayed-onset PTSD.
You might start to have bad dreams or flashbacks to the traumatic event. Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can be helpful, no matter when your symptoms start.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD happens when you experience trauma over a long period of time. This could be because of things like long-term abuse, ongoing domestic violence, or being involved in war.
If you have complex PTSD, you might have a hard time controlling your emotions or feel very negative about yourself. Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help you manage these feelings.

Uncomplicated PTSD

Uncomplicated PTSD is when you have only the basic symptoms of PTSD. This includes things like flashbacks, bad dreams, and actively avoiding things that remind you of the trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD is very effective for uncomplicated PTSD.

Comorbid PTSD

Comorbid PTSD is when you have PTSD along with another mental health condition. This could be something like depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder.

If you have comorbid PTSD, cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can be part of your treatment plan. It can help you deal with your PTSD symptoms while you also get help for your other condition.

Symptoms of PTSD

Intrusive symptoms, which are common in those with PTSD,  are when the traumatic event comes back into your mind, even when you don’t want it to. This can happen in different ways. You might have bad dreams about the event, or you might have flashbacks about the event as well.
Some other common symptoms of PTSD include:

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance symptoms are when you try to avoid anything that reminds you of the traumatic event. This could be places, people, or even thoughts and feelings related to the event.
Avoidance can make it hard to go about your daily life, but cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can teach you ways to face these reminders without feeling overwhelmed. 

Negative Cognitions and Mood Symptoms

Negative cognitions and mood symptoms are changes in the way you think and feel because of the traumatic event. You might feel sad, angry, or guilty.
You might also have trouble remembering parts of the event or feel disconnected from others. Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help you understand and change these negative thoughts and feelings.

Hyperarousal Symptoms

Hyperarousal symptoms are when you feel jumpy or on edge because of the traumatic event. You might have trouble sleeping or concentrating. 
You might also get startled easily or feel like you always need to be on guard. Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help you learn to calm and soothe your body and mind.

Combination of Symptoms

Sometimes, you might experience more than one type of symptom at the same time. However, no matter what mix of symptoms you have, cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

Other Causes and Risk Factors of PTSD

There are other causes that may play into one developing PTSD, such as:

Lack of Social Support

Feeling alone or uncared for can make you more susceptible to PTSD. This is often the case if you lack a strong network of supportive relationships.2

These relationships are vital because they provide comfort, advice, and a sense of belonging. Without them, the weight of traumatic experiences may feel heavier, increasing the risk of PTSD.

Sustained Stress

Persistent stress from various life situations can make you more vulnerable to PTSD. This stress could stem from ongoing challenges such as work-related problems, academic pressure, home life difficulties, or financial issues.

Over time, this stress can accumulate and can leave you more susceptible to developing PTSD following a traumatic event. 

Substance Use Disorder

The use of alcohol or drugs can add to the risk of PTSD. While these substances may temporarily mask or alleviate some PTSD symptoms, they often intensify them in the long run.3

Instead of helping, they can create a cycle where you rely on these substances to cope, further complicating the situation.  Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help you reduce or heal from the symptoms of substance use disorder as well.

Physical Health Problems

Certain physical health conditions can raise the risk of PTSD. For instance, chronic diseases like heart disease or diabetes may heighten your body’s reaction to stress, making it harder to handle traumatic experiences.4

Mental Health Problems

Existing mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can increase the likelihood of PTSD. These conditions may weaken your overall ability to deal with stress and trauma, making it more difficult to recover from traumatic experiences.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help you deal with these conditions and strengthen your ability to cope.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD?

Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD is a type of talk therapy. It works by changing the way you think and behave in response to stress or trauma.
This treatment focuses on the present and helps you manage your current problems. It doesn’t dwell on the past, but it can help you understand how your past experiences affect you now. 

How CBT Works

The principles of CBT for PTSD involve changing your thoughts and behaviors. It’s about understanding how your thoughts affect your feelings and actions.
For instance, if you often have scary thoughts about a traumatic event, you may feel frightened. That can make you avoid certain places or activities. In CBT, you learn to identify and challenge these thoughts. This can change how you feel and behave.

Evidence-Based Approach

CBT for PTSD is an evidence-based approach. That means it’s supported by scientific research. Studies show that it can reduce symptoms of PTSD. It can also help with other problems often linked to PTSD, like anxiety or depression.5

Collaborative Nature of Therapy

In CBT for PTSD, you work closely with your therapist. You’re an active participant in your treatment. You and your therapist will work together to identify your treatment goals.
Then, you can learn and practice skills to reach these goals. This can make you feel more in control and help you handle PTSD symptoms better. 

Alleviating Symptoms of PTSD with CBT

In cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD, you may use trauma-focused cognitive restructuring. This means you learn to think about your traumatic experience in a new way.
Your therapist will help you recognize thoughts that make you feel bad or scared. Then, you learn how to challenge these thoughts. This can help you feel less upset when you think about your trauma.  

Exposure Therapy

Another part of cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD is exposure therapy. This involves talking about your trauma or visiting places that remind you of it.

At first, this can feel scary. But over time, it can help you feel less afraid. It’s like getting used to cold water when you go swimming. It might be uncomfortable at first, but you adjust over time.  

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy is another method used in CBT for PTSD. It helps you understand how your trauma has affected your thoughts and feelings.
You learn to recognize and challenge thoughts that are keeping you stuck in your PTSD. For example, you might think you were to blame for what happened. Cognitive processing therapy can help you see that you’re not at fault.

Skills Training

Skills training is a part of cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD that teaches you new ways to manage stress. These skills can include relaxation exercises, mindfulness techniques, assertiveness training, and problem-solving.

Coping Strategies

Coping strategies are tools you can use when you’re feeling upset or scared. They can include things like talking to a friend, writing in a journal, or doing an activity you enjoy. They help you handle tough moments without getting too upset.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD

One benefit of cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD is the reduction in PTSD symptoms. This can include fewer intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, less avoidance of situations that remind you of the trauma, reduced emotional reactivity, improved sleep quality, and more.5

Improved Emotional Regulation

Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can also help with emotional regulation. This means you can better manage your feelings, especially those that are intense or uncomfortable. You might find it easier to stay calm when you’re upset, or you may not get as upset in the first place.

Decreased Avoidance Behaviors

Avoidance behaviors, like staying away from places or people that remind you of your trauma, can be reduced with cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD. 

This can make it easier to do things you enjoy or need to do. You may feel more comfortable going places or doing things that used to scare you.

More Control Over Your Life

Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can also help restore a sense of control and empowerment. This means you feel more in charge of your life and your feelings.
You may feel more confident handling problems or stressful situations. You might also feel more hopeful about the future and more capable of making positive changes in your life.  

Enhancing Quality of Life with CBT for PTSD

As you undergo cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself growing stronger in the face of adversity.
CBT can help you build this resilience by providing you with tools to manage stress and develop coping strategies. Over time, these skills can enhance your ability to handle difficult situations, leading to an overall improvement in your quality of life.  

Developing Healthy Relationships

PTSD can sometimes strain relationships. You might find it hard to communicate your feelings or connect with others due to your symptoms. Fortunately, CBT can provide you with strategies to improve your interpersonal skills.
During therapy, you’ll learn how to express your feelings in a healthier way, how to listen to others, and how to understand their feelings. These skills can help you build stronger relationships with family, friends, and even coworkers.

Improving Sleep Quality

A common symptom of PTSD is trouble with sleeping, such as nightmares or insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD can help improve your sleep quality. This can be achieved by teaching you relaxation techniques and strategies to manage nightmares.

A good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. By improving your sleep, CBT can help you feel more rested and better able to handle the challenges of the day.

Boosting Self-Esteem

When you have PTSD, it’s common to experience feelings of guilt, shame, or low self-esteem. But through CBT, you can learn to challenge negative thoughts about yourself and replace them with more positive ones.
Over time, this can lead to an improvement in your self-esteem. And when you feel better about yourself, you’re likely to see improvements in other areas of your life too.

Encouraging Engagement in Enjoyable Activities

Sometimes, PTSD might cause you to lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. CBT can help you reconnect with these activities. 

Your therapist might encourage you to slowly start reintroducing these activities into your life. This process can bring joy back into your life, and increase your overall satisfaction.  

Duration of CBT for PTSD

Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD typically follows a set timeline. You will usually attend regular sessions with a therapist over several weeks or months.
Often, a course of CBT might last between 12 to 20 sessions, but this can vary. Each session lasts about an hour and is usually held once a week.

Factors Affecting Treatment Duration

Several factors can influence how long you may need to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD. One major factor is the severity of your symptoms.
If your PTSD symptoms are severe, you might need more sessions to manage them effectively. On the other hand, if your symptoms are less severe, fewer sessions might be required.
Another factor is your personal progress. Everyone responds to therapy in their own time. Some people might notice improvements quickly, while others might need a bit more time.

Long-Term Maintenance

Even after you’ve completed a course of cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD, it’s beneficial to maintain the strategies and skills you’ve learned. This might involve occasional “booster” sessions with your therapist to revisit the techniques you’ve learned.
Moreover, it’s a good idea to continue engaging in activities that support your recovery. This can involve participating in group therapy and peer support networks, as well as attending special workshops.

Tailoring CBT for Individual Needs

In cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD, your treatment plan is designed for your unique needs. The first step is an assessment. During this process, your therapist will ask you about your symptoms and experiences. This information helps the therapist understand what you’re going through.
Based on the assessment, your therapist will create a treatment plan. This plan includes the goals of therapy and the techniques that will be used. As the therapy progresses, the plan can be adjusted based on your progress and feedback.

Addressing Co-Occurring Disorders

Sometimes, people with PTSD may also have other mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. In such cases, cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD will also address these co-occurring disorders.

Your therapist will incorporate strategies and techniques that are effective for treating these additional disorders.
For example, if you have PTSD and depression, your therapy might include techniques for managing depressive symptoms. This could involve learning how to challenge negative thought patterns or practicing activities that can boost your mood.

When to Seek Help

Deciding to seek help for PTSD is a personal decision, and there’s no one “right” time to do it. But there are some signs that it might be a good time to seek help.
If you’re experiencing distressing symptoms, such as nightmares or flashbacks, it might be a good time to seek help. If these symptoms are making it hard for you to work, enjoy your hobbies, or connect with others, that’s another sign that it might be time to seek help.

Boardwalk Recovery: Assisting with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD

Boardwalk Recovery is a center that offers help to people who are having a hard time with mental illness. We can help you work through your PTSD symptoms with evidence-based therapies. 

Treatment Approach

Boardwalk Recovery has deep knowledge in CBT. We use this therapy to help our clients reshape their thought patterns. This approach increases your capacity to cope with the emotions associated with PTSD.

Treatment plans are tailored to each individual client. Our therapists at Boardwalk Recovery use a unique variety of modalities, such as psychotherapy, 12-step programs, and various holistic therapies as well.

These programs aim to help you engage actively with your peers and counselors during therapy and activities. Aftercare is also a part of the recovery process, ensuring that you receive the necessary support even after the treatment ends.

Get In Touch With Us Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, reach out to our caring team at Boardwalk Recovery today. We will help you every step of the way on your path to healing.
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