Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for PTSD

post traumatic stress disorder

CBT for PTSD in London.

PTSD happens when a person has faced a trauma recently. The trauma they have faced keeps its place in their minds for long and keep irritating them in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. If not treated, it can interfere with their behaviour and daily life activities with great intensity.

It is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who have experienced any traumatic event such as a serious accident, natural disaster, violence, or anything of this sort. Many people especially children can’t come back to their normal routine and live in the trauma after facing such traumas. However, with care and proper therapy, they can come back to their normal life soon. But if the symptoms get worse over months, then the person might be suffering from PTSD. 

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is the presence of one or more of the following, following the experiencing of actual or threatened injury, death or sexual violence: Frequent, intrusive distressing memories of the event. Dissociative re-experiencing of the event. Frequent distressing dreams regarding the event. Physiological reactions to cues which mirror elements of the experienced trauma. Intense psychological distress in response to reminders of the traumatic event.

Following this, the individual is likely to avoid distressing memories, thoughts of feelings associated with the event and attempt to avoid any associated reminders of the event (e.g. places, activities, situations, people, objects, sensory stimuli).

Changes in cognition or mood consisting of two or more of the following: Inability to recall significant aspects of the trauma. Strong negative beliefs about self, others and the world. Distorted beliefs about the cause or consequence of the trauma that result in the individual blaming themselves. Frequent negative affect. Experience of being detached from others. Decreased interested in previously enjoyed activities. Persistent inability to experiencing positive emotions.

Changes in arousal are also present, such as outbursts of anger, engagement in risky behaviours, concentration difficulties, hyper vigilance, and disruptions to sleep.

The duration of these experiences will be more than 1 month to meet the specific diagnostic criteria, and must result in clinically significant distress or impairment to social, occupational or other areas of functioning.

How can Cognitive Behaviour Therapy help with PTSD?

CBT is the best chosen therapy for such kind of disorders. It aids the client is suffering from PTSD in improving functions and reducing symptoms. It encourages the patient to re-evaluate their thinking patterns and emotions to identify the problem such as thinking that every event will end catastrophically and everything is going to be wrong. The person conceptualises the thoughts again to improve their thinking patterns.

According to Nice, CBT lets the client think of the traumatic event and the thoughts associated with it to re-evaluate those thoughts. CTB for PTSD also includes managing stress which makes the client able to treat with those traumatic thoughts better.

When is the right time to seek CBT for PTSD?

If you have just faced a trauma and experience flashbacks, nightmares, and fearful thoughts about the trauma for more than a month, it is the time to seek a therapist. Other important symptoms are:

  • Unwanted distressing memories.
  • Physical reactions.
  • Nightmares.
  • Avoidance.
  • Loss of interest in activities and gatherings.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Difficulty in thinking positively.
  • Memory problems.
  • Insomnia.
  • Feeling emotionally numb.

How long does CBT for PTSD usually last for?

The treatment plan for PTSD generally accompanies with identifying the issue and then resolving the disturbing thoughts. The client is reminded of the event and then advised to re-evaluate the thoughts associated with that. Usually, the treatment can last from 5-12 sessions.

How does a person develop PTSD?

Predisposing factors

There are some factors that may make some individuals more likely than others to experience post-traumatic stress following a traumatic incident. Predisposing factors may include: Early exposure to traumatic experiences. Experiences of anxiety prior to age 6. Childhood adversity such as familial separation or socioeconomic difficulties. Lower education status.

Precipitating factors

Precipitating factors include: The ‘severity’ of the trauma (e.g. increased violence, more than one trauma experienced). Perception of threat to life. Sustaining injuries during the trauma. Trauma perpetrated by a known individual. The experience of dissociation during the event.

Perpetuating factors

Perpetuating factors include: Repeated exposure to stimuli associated with the trauma. Other trauma-related losses, such as financial loss or social isolation following the trauma. Unhelpful coping strategies. Negative appraisals.

Protective factors

Protective factors include examples such as: Positive social support. Stable and reliable relationship. Healthy coping strategies. Financial stability. Educational attainment. Being high in emotional expressiveness and higher rates of self-compassion have also been highlighted as protective factors.

What is Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT)?

Trauma-focused CBT is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) specifically designed for PTSD. NICE recommends that clients attend between 8–12 weekly sessions with the same therapist. See our page on trauma for more information about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

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