One of the hardest things about being human is that we don’t always walk away from emotionally traumatic events so easily. Life would be a far more simple affair for many of us if we were better able to forget past trauma’s. But it seems that even our body’s record and store the stress of past events. In more extreme cases this leads to full blown post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and we will be in need of PTSD treatment.
The worldwide diagnosis rates of PTSD have been on a steady increase over the last 20 years, particularly among serving military personnel. But it isn’t only people who have been to war zones that suffer with PTSD and require treatment.
University of Otago researchers recently surveyed 1,817 currently serving and retired military personnel in New Zealand. This study revealed that one in three had PTSD symptoms. Although the results from this survey suggest that post-traumatic stress is higher among military personnel, PTSD is considered a common mental health condition that affects an estimated 3 per cent of the population. World events like the recent global pandemic are also suspected to negatively impact PTSD diagnosis rates.
With the increase in rates of PTSD diagnosis, what PTSD treatment options are there and how useful are they?
Various studies worldwide have shown the prevalence of insomnia in 10%–30% of the population, some even as high as 50%–60%. Interestingly, insomnia is most common in females, older adults, and people with medical and mental ill-health.
Furthermore, a 2021 National Library of Medicine study concluded that approximately one-quarter of adults in New Zealand might suffer from a chronic sleep problem. Sadly, insomnia symptoms and sleep problems were found to be higher among Māori than non-Māori, highlighting insomnia as a major public health issue in New Zealand.
These statics are likely to be even higher with several reports linking insomnia and sleep issues to the Covid19 global pandemic, with quotes like “perfect storm of sleep problems” and “Think of sleep problems as infection,” referenced in The Harvard Gazette article ‘ insomnia in a pandemic.’
So, with insomnia numbers increasing and a wider population dealing with insomnia, what insomnia treatment options are actually out there?
Known PTSD Treatment Options
Several types of psychotherapy, or ‘talk therapy’, may be used to treat PTSD symptoms.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a ‘talking therapy’ available to treat mental health issues. It’s similar to behavioural therapy, but it also addresses unhelpful thought patterns or problematic thoughts. The idea behind CBT is that certain feelings or beliefs you have about yourself or situations in your life can lead to distress. Focus is applied to your present state of mind without necessarily focusing on finding out the causes of your problems. For PTSD, cognitive therapy often is used alongside exposure therapy.
One-third of those who completed CBT achieved high-end state functioning after six months. This equates to around a 53% reduction of PTSD symptoms; these results were maintained at the 6-month follow-up mark.
This behavioural therapy helps you to safely face both memories and situations that you find frightening. It also helps you to learn to cope with nightmares and flashbacks effectively. Virtual reality programs are one approach that allows you to re-enter the setting in which you experienced trauma.
Exposure therapy is one of the most research-supported treatments for PTSD, making it the gold standard of PTSD treatment options. After completing exposure therapy, about 60 to 90 per cent of people have either no symptoms or mild symptoms of their original disorder.
EMDR therapy is an effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma or other distressing life experiences. EMDR approaches psychological issues not via ‘talk therapy’ or medications. Instead, EMDR uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements to lessen the power of emotional memories from past traumatic events.
In 2014, a review of 24 studies suggested EMDR can help relieve emotional distress. It may also work more quickly and effectively than trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and it may help ease symptoms like pain or muscle tension.
New and Emerging PTSD Treatment Options
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy uses prescribed doses of MDMA in addition to psychotherapy sessions. Research suggests that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, including Complex PTSD, might improve treatment effectiveness.
In May 2021, promising results were released from a clinical trial testing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD.
Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS)
A 2020 study completed by Australian researchers from the Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health, reported on a pilot study that used TBS. This study published in Military Medicine showed that TBS is a more powerful and effective form of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). TBS mimics the natural “theta rhythms” of the human brain to evoke potent effects. TBS was shown to improve depressive disorders in Australian veterans with PTSD.
Theta is the frequency our brains use when learning new things or adjusting to new environments, thus making TBS therapy superior to previous forms of TMS in treating Major Depressive Disorder (MDD or simply depression).
Certain types of stimulation impact our brain function more than others. These can ‘buildup’, causing our brain function to change over time. Mainly the difficult, challenging or traumatic tasks, roles and experiences that life throws at us.
Light Brainwave Entrainment stimulates the brain into entering a specific state by using high-frequency LED light. This light recalibrates brain activity, evoking the brain’s ‘frequency following’ response. An induced brainwave state can include enhanced focus, relaxation, meditation, or sleep induction. Simply put, brainwave entrainment pushes the entire brain into a particular state, adjusting or interrupting the brain’s response to certain situations. Essentially reprogramming how your brain processes and responds.
DeepWave Brainwave Entrainment can help with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, pain relief, meditation and creative expression, performance, emotional healing and trauma. It is a simple yet effective way to lead your mind into states that you might usually find difficult to reach, allowing you to experience what those states feel like.
Whether you choose EMDR as a PTSD treatment option, Exposure Therapy as a PTSD treatment option, or one of the new emerging PTSD treatments like brainwave entrainment is less important. What is most important for PTSD sufferers is knowing that numerous treatment options exist and that seeking treatment is essential. As various studies show, a variety of PTSD treatment options can be used in isolation or in conjunction with each other to exponentially increase your quality of life.
As with all treatments, do your research to find a PTSD treatment option that works best for you.