From Mental Health First Aid USA on November 3, 2023
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, about 6% of people have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But PTSD affects more than military members and veterans. Just one event can have a lifelong impact on a person’s overall well-being and ability to cope.
PTSD can occur in any person who experiences a traumatic or stressful situation, such as exposure to combat, childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical assault, being threatened with a weapon, or an accident. Signs and symptoms can last for months, years, or even a lifetime, affecting thoughts, emotions, behavior, and appearance. A person with PTSD can feel helpless—especially if their symptoms don’t go away.
But there is hope for anyone diagnosed with PTSD. Learning a few coping techniques—in addition to seeking professional help—will build their resilience as they heal. These techniques can help you manage the signs and symptoms—and possibly even prevent them.
Here are a few ways one can begin to heal, build resilience, and maintain mental well-being.
Find professional help.
The sooner a person seeks support and treatment for trauma, the greater the chance of recovery. Several types of treatments have been shown to help people with PTSD, including trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), eye movement desensitization therapy (EMDR), prolonged exposure therapy (PE), and dialectical behavioral therapy. therapy (DBT).
Sights, smells, and sounds can remind a person of the traumatic event they experienced. Social gatherings, large crowds, and small spaces are common environments that can make a person with PTSD feel anxious. By recognizing the triggers, one can avoid these situations until one is ready and mentally prepared.
Take positive action.
Getting involved in a project or cause is a great way to promote a healthy mindset. Being active as a volunteer or in a community project gives a sense of purpose and an optimistic outlook on life.
Avoid alcohol and other substances.
It may seem harmless to use alcohol or other substances to take the edge off, but repeated use and reliance interfere with coping strategies. Alcohol and other substances can also negatively affect sleep.
Practice relaxation techniques.
Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, prayer, listening to soothing music, and stretching and breathing strategies help people with PTSD find inner peace and tranquility. Many techniques—such as breathing strategies—can also help a person deal with anxiety during a traumatic reaction.
Physical activity, such as exercise, hiking, biking, and even working outside, releases endorphins and serotonin. These feel-good chemicals improve mood and disrupt negative thought patterns. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.
With support and persistence, recovery from PTSD is possible, but it is a process that takes time and effort. Understanding that everyone’s recovery path is different will help a person with PTSD have realistic expectations. If someone you know has been diagnosed with PTSD, offer support and encourage them to seek professional help.
Getting Mental Health First Aid will also help people understand how to listen and offer support and resources to someone who has experienced a traumatic event. Find a course and learn more about how you can help.
If you or someone you know is in danger, call 911, a local mental health crisis hotline or contact the 988 Lifeline for Suicide and Crisis: Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.
Mental Health First Aid USA has trained more than 3 million people nationwide to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use problems. And we’re not done yet. MHFA wants everyone in America to have at least one Mental Health First Aider in their immediate circle of friends, family and peers. 1 in 15 people should be certified to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use problems. Together we will reach millions more and help others #BeThe1in15.
Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA. National Council on Behavioral Health d/b/a National Council on Mental Well-Being.
Mental Health First Aid. (2022 June 27). Trauma and PTSD: What Are They and How Can I Help? https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2022/06/trauma-and-ptsd-what-are-they-and-how-can-i-help/
Smith, M., Robinson, L., Segal, J. (nd) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/ptsd-symptoms-self-help-treatment.htm
US Department of Veterans Affairs. (y) Coping with traumatic stress reactions. PTSD: National PTSD Center. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/gethelp/coping_stress_reactions.asp