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woman with post traumatic stress disorder

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Once diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it's important to know that help is available.  With support, many women can draw on their own reserves of strength and resilience to cope with post-traumatic stress. The following describes some options that are available today.

Psychological Therapy

Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist (a medical doctor with a specialty in psychiatry, who can prescribe medication), a psychologist (a licensed therapist with a background in psychology and either a doctorate or master's degree) or a counselor (a licensed or certified individual with supervised training in psychology).

Therapists can offer a range of psychosocial techniques for women with PTSD. Supportive psychotherapy allows women to talk about the trauma and its effects. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) teaches women how to identify and put aside negative thoughts that trigger anxiety and how to change their behavioral responses to reminders of the traumatic event. Exposure therapy helps women with PTSD gradually confront a situation or object that causes anxiety.

Medical Approaches

Medications that raise serotonin levels are typically used to treat the symptoms of PTSD. Serotonin is a chemical naturally produced by the body and brain that takes part in many physical functions, including nerve transmission. Not everyone may receive the same medications for PTSD. This is because medications for PTSD are tailored to the individual's symptoms and any coexisting disorders.

Lifestyle Approaches

The following steps may help you relieve and begin to overcome the symptoms of PTSD:

  • Eliminate substances that may affect your mood, such as nicotine or caffeine.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take care of yourself, with healthy meals and adequate sleep.
  • Restore your normal household and daily routine as much as possible. Choose a routine that is positive, constructive and gives you a sense of personal control.
  • Know that painful feelings happen even to people who are resilient enough to recover from trauma.
  • Use optimism and believe in yourself. Have faith in your ability to cope, and view the future with hope.
  • Maintain or build good relationships with supportive family members or friends. Accepting help graciously and providing help to others through your church or community groups are two good ways.
  • Remember: Intense feelings of anxiety, anger, fear and grief soon after a life-altering traumatic event are normal reactions to a very abnormal situation.
  • The way you're feeling is natural, unless it doesn't get better after one to six months.
  • If you have problems with anxiety or PTSD, reaching out to the help you have available is positive and healthy.
  • You can use help from others and your own courage to restore your sense of well-being and start your life again.

Questions to Ask Your Health Care Professional about PTSD:
   1. Do I have PTSD? How do you know? Do you see a connection between how I feel and PTSD?
   2. Is PTSD treatable? Can I recover from it?
   3. What treatment do you recommend for me?
   4. If you are recommending medication, what is the proper dosage and how do I take it?
   5. For medication, what are the expected effects and side effects?
   6. For medication, how long should I expect to be taking it?
   7. If you are recommending psychotherapy, what type of therapy?
   8. For psychotherapy, how long is it expected to take?
   9. For psychotherapy, what should I do to cooperate with my therapy?
  10. Until my treatment starts working, how can I manage my anxiety and stress to help prevent it from becoming overwhelming?