The Other Side of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, and it does not discriminate.

A year after the Boston Marathon bombing, it has come out that more than 10% of the children who witnessed the event are likely to exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

There are three types of PTSD symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal.
Common symptoms under these three categories are:

· Flashbacks, recurrent and persistent distressing thoughts and effort to ignore or suppress such thoughts
· Difficulty falling or staying asleep and/or recurrent distressing dreams/nightmares
· Avoiding places, objects or events that may remind a victim of the trauma
· Guilt, depression, mental numbness and worry
· Loss of interest in activities once enjoyable
· Difficulty concentrating and memory difficulties
· Hyper vigilance, irritability or outburst of anger

In addition to the children of Boston, the victims of Hurricane Sandy are suffering from the mental and emotional repercussions of such a traumatic event.

Other well-known victims of PTSD include veterans and active duty military members. One in three American troops returning from overseas experience PTSD, but less than 40% will ever receive help.

Victims of sexual assault are even more likely to suffer from this common mental condition. Almost 31% of sexual assault survivors develop PTSD at some point in their life, and 11% of those survivors are still experiencing symptoms of PTSD.

Anyone can experience a traumatic event and at least 70% of Americans do. Twenty percent of those who experience such events develop PTSD as a result.

Nancy Brisebois-Good LCPC, NCC is a licensed bilingual mental health therapist with the N*COMMON program at the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County. She works with newly arrived French-speaking, multicultural clients, who have mostly come from countries in West Africa, and are in the U.S seeking political asylum. Many of her clients suffer from PTSD, as a result of severe trauma and torture.

“Some of my clients have lost their families and everything they owned and they are here because they are being persecuted in their country,” says Brisebois-Good.

These clients frequently suffer from nightmares, insomnia and constant fear. The triggers are sometimes hard to distinguish.

“Sometimes there’s no trigger at all because they are constantly thinking about their trauma,” says Brisebois-Good. “A slight noise can lead them to be jumpy and scared.”

When it comes to treating these issues, Brisebois-Good is one of many who prefer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a method of treatment that addresses dysfunctional emotions and thoughts and the impact of these thoughts and feelings on a person’s behavior.

Another method of treatment used by Brisebois-Good is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) which involves that the client filling out a sleep journal. Later on, the therapist can look at the journal to see what is most likely causing the insomnia and decide from there how it should be treated.
Exposure, Relaxation, & Rescripting Therapy (ERRT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment for trauma-related nightmares also used by Brisebois-Good.

Most of Brisebois-Good’s clients have nightmares. By using ERRT, the client is able to (if they agree to do so) relive and discuss their nightmares with their therapist, where they feel safe.

When they do so, they discuss disturbing details of their nightmares. ERRT helps to re-script these details by supplying clients with the tools to empower themselves.

Brisebois-Good described a scenario where a client might have a nightmare about someone violently chasing them. She would tell them to imagine what they would do if they had all the superpowers in the world, and then she would ask them what they would do next.

“And that’s when you start to see them smiling,” says Brisebois- Good.

Over time, the clients are able to use ERRT techniques to create a more positive outcome in their nightmares. Soon, Brisebois-Good says, they are able to feel more assertive and confident while awake as well.

Several other techniques are used in these therapy sessions, such as narrative therapy, Gestalt, and relaxation techniques.

“Sharing their experience in a safe environment allows the clients to process the trauma,” says Brisebois-Good. “Learning tools from all these modalities, provides them the knowledge and psycho-education necessary to be able to live in a more functional and comfortable way.”

PTSD can often seem and feel very debilitating, but with treatment, recovery is possible.

If you think yourself or a loved one may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the most important measure to be taken is to offer emotional support.

For additional help:
National Center for PTSD: 1-802-296-6300
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
Suicide Prevention Lifelines: 1-800-273-TALK, 1-800-SUICIDE
MHA Military/Vet Resource Line: 1-301-738-7176

Guest Blogger:

Rain Freeman, Summer Communications Intern

@_RainFreeman

Rain Freeman

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

A Walk a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

 

shoe

Opportunities to get “well” are all around us. They are shouted from billboards advertising gyms, hidden in community education catalogues, and “sold in a store near you.” It’s exhausting.

 

In my role at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, I manage a group of wellness programs called the Healthy Communities Partnership. Every day, I hear many, many messages about wellness, and I’m constantly working with my team to come up with messages and strategies to help people find the information they need.

 

But maybe we’re over-thinking this. Is it possible that there is a simple answer? A recent video by Dr. Mike Evans promotes a single therapy that has been clinically proven to:

 

  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • reduce progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes
  • reduce hip fractures in post-menopausal women
  • reduce overall risk of death
  • reduce fatigue
  • increase quality of life.

What is this miracle drug? Walking. Walking 30 minutes during the day has been proven to accomplish all of those things.

 

I like this idea because almost anyone can do it without spending a lot of money or dramatically changing their lifestyles. The problem with most of the wellness strategies I hear about is that they just don’t fit my life. I can do anything for a few weeks, but I’ve got a son to raise, a job to do, a house to maintain and a television to watch! I’ve got priorities! But I can walk. All I need is a pair of sneakers and a few minutes.

 

We recently competed in an internal walking challenge here at the Penny George Institute. It wasn’t complicated. We divided into four teams, and the team with the most steps at the end of six weeks wins. We measured our steps with high-tech pedometers called Fit Bits.

 

During those six weeks, I figured out how to walk 10,000 steps a day without compromising other parts of my life. I walked my dog every day, something I wanted to do anyway. I worked in short walks during the day. We had some walking meetings. I took the stairs more. And I felt better!

 

You can take or leave the pedometer. I found it useful, personally, and you can get simple ones for less than $10. But the goal is to walk. It’s the easiest way I know to dramatically improve your health.

 

Guest Blogger:

Nathan Kreps, Healthy Communities Partnership Program Manager/ Live Well Blog Writer

Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Maintain Your Mental Health As A Social Media User

Do this. Open your search engine. Start typing in “social media makes me.”  What are the top search results that you see?

Here’s what I saw:

social media makes me lonely

How many happy days have been destroyed by Facebook posts about your ex and the new girl/guy? How many relaxing nights alone at home have been ruined by Instagram pics of friends out on the town, having a great time while you’re downing pints of Ben and Jerry’s in your zebra onesie?

Social media is an incredible tool. It has the power to reconnect us with friends we haven’t seen since we were kids, to share good news with millions of people worldwide in seconds, to even make dreams come true. But it also has the power to control our lives and our moods – if we let it. Like any powerful tool, use it wisely we must.

 

use it wisely

 

I’ll share a few tips on maintaining positive mental health as a social media user found around the web, as well as a few tips I’ve picked up from friends’ experiences and from some of my own.

 

Is your social media use cutting into the real-life things that make you happy?

  • Talk to your friends – Make sure you’re connecting with your friends in person, or at least via phone or video chat. Constant liking, sharing and commenting can make it seem like we’re always connected to friends. Social networks are no substitute for having actual, meaningful conversations.  Meet up for a cup of coffee or give a friend a call who you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  • Set Time Limits – Set boundaries for yourself so you don’t end up checking your accounts continuously throughout the day.
  • Be in the present – Scrolling through your feeds all day means that you miss out on the greatness happening right in front of you.
  • Remember that Facebook friends DO NOT equal real friends – Your roommate has more than 1,000 friends on Facebook. You have 250. That means she’s more loved than you, right? It’s easy to get sucked into this way of thinking, but there’s no way she can call on those 1,000 people to vent at the end of a long day. Think about the real people that you can depend on in your life. Those are the friends who count.

Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses?

  • Keep in mind that people share selectively – When checking your social media updates, it seems like everyone’s getting engaged, everyone’s getting promotions, everyone’s doing something exciting. Remember – people only choose to share those spectacular moments in life. No one shares about being short on rent or getting into a fight with their spouse.
  • Don’t use social media to seek validationIt feels good when people like your posts and pictures. It’s tempting, but don’t utilize your social media accounts to seek validation. When you share a picture of yourself that you think is cute or a post you think is hilarious, your lack of likes can be a blow to your self-confidence and a serious downer. Don’t give your networks that power over you. Self-confidence and true happiness comes from within, not from some acquaintance of yours giving their stamp of approval on your outfit.

Do you need a social media vacation?

  • Delete social media apps from your phone – Has that 4 inch screen growing out of the palm of your hand taken over your life? (Side note – that much hunching over your phone cannot be good for your neck or posture.) Consider removing social media apps from your cell phone to limit your access to your accounts and cut down on the time you spend posting and perusing feeds.
  • Remind yourself why you’re using each social media platform. There are a million social media applications available. Do you really need to be on all of them!?

 

We love social media – it’s what allows us to connect with you! Just make sure your mental health isn’t being negatively affected while using it.  

 

And follow us, we promote positivity, won’t spam your feeds and share really great articles on mental health and wellness.

 Pinterest | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

 

Guest Blogger:

Jasmine Berry, Communication, Education & Advocacy Coordinator

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

A Healthier, Happier You in 2014!

What is it about the beginning of the year that suddenly makes us want to be our greatest selves? More than 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Of them, only about 8% keep them. In fact, most people have broken theirs before the end of the first week. Remember January 2012′s promises to eat healthier, save more and be more adventurous, only to spend the majority of 2013 eating two pound burritos (extra sour cream, please), not sticking to your savings plan and spending your free time doing the same old thing? Yes, we’ve all been there time and time again.

This year, My Mental Health Day offers these tried and true tips to help you be in the top 8% and stick to your resolutions. We intend to keep our resolutions and invite you to join us. We’re going to provide you (and us) with quarterly challenges that revolve around keeping our minds, bodies and spirits healthy and happy.

Here’s the game plan for winter:

Mind
Choose three goals: Two short-term and one long-term. Remember, when setting goals they should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). We’ve established the “T” in the short-term goals with our plan – to achieve by the end of 2014.

Next, identify two concrete steps toward accomplishing each goal. For example: “By October 1 (time-bound) I will be able to run a 10K (specific – does not say ‘I will get into better shape.’).” You have to determine for yourself if it is attainable. If you’ve never run before, maybe you should try a 5K first. You will also decide if it’s relevant, it’s your goal.
- Step One: Register for the Marine Corps Marathon 10K.
- Step Two: Create a training plan.

 

Body
Decide on your choice method of exercise for the winter. Then pick a backup exercise. (Meaning, if your plans change and you aren’t able to make it to your pilates class, you can still get in a core workout in the living room with a DVD.) Need ideas? Check out sites like Groupon or Living Social for deals on exercise classes in your area.

Choose three healthy foods/drinks (that adhere to any dietary restrictions you may have) to incorporate into your everyday diet. Then choose three not-so-healthy foods/drinks you want to go cold turkey on. Need ideas? Adding more water, dark leafy greens such as spinach, and fruits are simple starting points. We like this list from Fitness Magazine.

Spirit
Work on letting any hurt, disappointment or anger from 2013 stay in 2013. Write down all of the things you know you need to let go of as you enter the new year, and one thing you learned from each experience.

That goes for people as well. Think of relationships that leave you feeling more drained than uplifted. It is important to appreciate how well they served you once, and understand that it is okay your life paths are no longer intertwined. Life is too short to surround yourself with people who give you anything but love. If you find you’re having a difficult time in accomplishing this, seek a mental health professional to talk you through it.

 

Check in with us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to share your progress with us using the hashtag #MMHDhealthierhappier. 

Click here for a MMHD Winter Challenge printout.

We’re here to support each other!

  • Thanks to our Sponsors!



    Sponsor 1

    Sponsor 2

    Sponsor 3

    Sponsor 4

    *These are only some of our sponsors

  • 2014 Sponsors

  • MyMentalHealthDay on Twitter