Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Rehab

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – disease, therapy and rehab

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that is triggered by a stressful experience. Affected people suffer from anxiety or sleep disorders. You often experience the triggering traumatic event in your mind again and again. PTSD should always be treated. Rehabilitation (rehab) can help overcome this.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: general

Trauma is a term used to describe situations that lead to severe physical or psychological stress. This includes natural disasters, accidents or experiencing physical or psychological violence. Events that occur in every life (e.g. death of relatives, separation from partner) are not meant. PTSD can develop in people who have been directly affected or witnessed the events. At least every second person experiences trauma in their life. In countries where there is war, violence or great poverty, there are significantly more. However, the traumatic experience does not always have to lead to PTSD. In the United States (1) and Central Europe, about eight percent of all people develop PTSD once in their life. For groups that often have very stressful experiences (police officers, Refugees, soldiers, rescue workers), up to 50 percent (2). Train and tram drivers are also at higher risk for PTSD because they often experience accidents involving personal injury or attempted suicide.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: causes

PTSD is triggered directly by the traumatic experience. The causes include:

  • Physical or psychological violence in the family or by criminals
  • Abuse and rape
  • terrorist attacks
  • War experiences such as torture, displacement, flight, political captivity, hostage-taking, mass destruction
  • Fires and natural disasters (victims or helpers)
  • Experience accidents or suicide
  • Life-threatening diseases (e.g. cancer, heart attack, treatment in the intensive care unit)

For those affected, what they have experienced changes their understanding of themselves and the world. You experience a loss of control and feel helpless, overwhelmed or scared in the situation. The PTSD represents the brain’s attempt to overcome the situation as unscathed as possible. This reaction is very natural, especially when there are several or particularly severe or long-lasting traumatic experiences. Mentally healthy people can also develop PTSD. Therapy can almost always overcome PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: appearance/symptoms

One speaks of acute stress reactions if a disturbance (fears, “numbness”, disorientation) occurs for a few hours or days after an extraordinary physical or psychological stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops with delay, usually within a few weeks to months after the event. Those affected experience the trauma again and again after certain key stimuli or in dreams (flashback). Feelings of emotional numbness, apathy and joylessness are also typical. This alternates with phases of overexcitability, irritability and aggressiveness. Some PTSD patients can no longer endure situations that are remotely similar to or trigger memories of the trauma. This can severely limit quality of life and mobility. The risk of physical illnesses (e.g. cardiovascular diseases), addictions, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide increases.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: examinations & diagnosis

If you suspect PTSD, you will usually be referred to a specialist or psychologist. The symptoms are first clarified there. The therapist usually uses an extensive questionnaire. This precise survey is necessary because it is not easy to differentiate it from other diseases such as depression. That is why there are criteria that must be met in order to speak of a PTSD.

PTSD criteria (according to ICD-10):

  • The person concerned has experienced a very stressful situation (of exceptional threat or catastrophic extent)
  • There are always memories of the experience
  • The person concerned avoids all circumstances that resemble the stressful situation

In addition, at least one of the following applies:

  • The memory of the trauma experience is incomplete or no longer exists
  • There are at least two symptoms such as sleep disorders, increased anxiety, agitation, lack of concentration, irritability and aggressiveness.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: therapy & rehab

If the post-traumatic stress disorder is treated early and comprehensively, it can usually be overcome (3). Find out everything about therapy and rehab at PTSD here.

Therapy for PTSD

The main pillar of treatment is psychotherapy (4). Your doctor will first of all explain the illness to you. Then step by step you approach the traumatic experience. Sometimes it makes sense to confront the person concerned with the trauma as part of the therapy. But that doesn’t have to be the case if the load were too great. In any case, you will learn strategies that will help you overcome the trauma and prevent flashbacks (memories that suddenly flare up). Medicines can also have a supporting effect. In lighter cases, outpatient therapy is sufficient. In the case of more pronounced forms, a hospital stay may be necessary.

Rehabilitation at PTSD

A stationary stay in a rehabilitation clinic can help you to overcome your trauma. In a rehab you learn to gain control over unwanted memories and to process the trauma. Accompanying symptoms such as depression, sleep problems or fears should be reduced. The goal is that after completing the rehab, you can participate in your everyday and professional life without any restrictions.

In-depth psychological and specialist care

There are rehabilitation clinics that are specially designed to treat PTSD. Experienced specialists, psychotherapists or psychologists will help you to calm down and then tackle the trauma in small steps. It is particularly important to the treatment team that those affected do not feel “different” or “crazy”. Instead, the rehab participants learn how to accept and overcome PTSD as a normal and healthy protective response of their psyche.

Modern methods of trauma processing

In one-on-one conversations with experienced therapists, you can talk about everything “from the soul” in rehab. You will also learn various techniques from behavioral therapy with which you can process the trauma you have experienced. Fears, unwanted memories and feelings of guilt are reduced step by step and controllable. There are also a number of special procedures for processing trauma. This includes e.g. B. the EMDR, translates for example: desensitization and processing through eye movements.

Relaxation procedures and supportive treatment

Relaxation procedures such as autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson help to cope better with restlessness and fears. Concentration exercises, yoga or Qi Gong also help many affected people. Creative approaches such as music, art or movement therapies are also offered in rehab. With PTSD, the body feeling can also be impaired. Measures such as physical therapy, physiotherapy, baths or occupational therapy help against this. If necessary, you will also receive support for a professional reorientation in rehab.

Chances of recovery and benefits of rehab

PTSD heals only in about a third of cases without therapy. With therapy, however, the chances of recovery are up to 90 percent. Around half of those affected are completely symptom-free after three years of treatment (1). Rehabilitation can help to overcome PTSD faster and completely.

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