Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been researched extensively over the last few decades. PTSD affects older adults more as they are already vulnerable and are prone to anxiety. Many things like the death of a loved one to a serious, terminal illness can cause PTSD in seniors. Natural and manmade disasters might also cause PTSD.
In recent times, however, new clinical practices have developed tremendously. As new knowledge comes in, new and therapeutic approaches to treat PTSD are developing. A variety of treatments based on scientific research and evidence are now available.
There are three broad categories of treatment of PTSD in older adults:
- Psychological treatments (talking therapies)
- Physical treatments (medications)
- Exercise, meditation, and self-help
Usually, a combination of these treatments works in curing PTSD.
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Here we discuss the various psychotherapies employed in the treatment of PTSD.
Psychotherapies for PTSD
Psychological treatments (often called talking therapies) help you gain a new perspective in your ways of thinking. They can also help you change your habits and deal with the challenges that life throws in your way in a better manner.
Psychological treatments can be on a one-to-one basis or in group therapy sessions. You are also expected to practice mental exercises between these sessions for faster recovery.
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These are the following psychotherapies for PTSD:
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) lets you recognize the ways your thinking affects your moods. CBT aims to teach you to think about situations in a different way. You could also learn to deal with perceived dangers and stress. It challenges your thinking patterns and rearranges your way of thinking. You also learn to face stress (rather than avoiding it) and handling it in a different way.
CBT is very beneficial for the elderly with PTSD. You learn about PTSD and human psychology in these sessions. You are also made to “enact” or imagine the traumatic event and its immediate aftermath which triggered PTSD. In this way, you can explore your negative feelings and come to terms with the trauma.
CBT is conducted over 8 to 12 sessions each of one to two hours. Your doctor can lengthen or lessen your treatment according to your response. You are expected to recount your traumatic experiences so it is important to allocate enough time to it.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a comprehensive 8-phase approach that helps you separate the trauma and its impact from your emotions. The idea is that strong emotions at the time of trauma can interfere with your ability to process information so that the trauma is stored in a different way in your memory from other normal memories.
The older adult is asked to describe the feelings at the time of the trauma while watching the therapist’s moving fingers. This helps with proper thought processing.
EMDR may involve 8 to 12 sessions and can also include some aspects of trauma-focused CBT. It is especially useful for older adults who find it difficult to talk about their traumatic experiences.
Cognitive processing therapy
Cognitive processing therapy is particularly designed for treating PTSD. It is a huge category exploring various aspects like issues of trust, safety, power, and self-esteem. It encourages an older adult with PTSD to recognize unhelpful topics (called stuck points) and replace them with positive and helpful thoughts with rational thinking. This therapy also addresses other symptoms associated with PTSD like depression, anger, and guilt.
There are other psychotherapies for PTSD like:
- Narrative Exposure Therapy
- Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR) Narrative Therapy
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy
- Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy for PTSD
- Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
- Imagery Rehearsal
- Stress Management
- Supportive Counselling and Present-Centred Therapy
- Emotion Freedom Techniques
However, trauma-focused CBT, EMDR and cognitive processing therapy are most frequently used.
Based on the level of your PTSD, your psychiatrist will suggest you the treatment you have to undergo. Combining psychotherapy with other methods of treatment can help you lead a happy life.
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