Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event. These events can include:
A natural disaster;
A terrorist attack
War or combat;
Near-death experiences or death threats.
PTSD is most often identified in war veterans, as they encounter many of these traumatic events on a daily basis. However, other people can experience PTSD as well. About 7% to 8% of the population experience PTSD at some point in their life, and around 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. It’s important to note that people who experience trauma do not always develop PTSD. Most traumatized victims experience acute stress symptoms that go away with time; those who develop PTSD show persistent symptoms, including:
Flashbacks or dissociative reactions;
Irritation or aggression;
Loss of interest in activities;
People who suffer from PTSD may have changes in their mood and personality. This is because their brains are constantly trying to access the “fight-or-flight” stress response, which can put a strain on other mental capacities. Often people seek help from medication or therapy to help combat PTSD symptoms. While these treatments may help people with their symptoms, there is a wide variety of natural, supplemental, and homeopathic remedies that might also help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD.
Therapy is a treatment aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health problems. Trained professionals — psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and licensed counselors — examine events in a person’s life to gain insight. Holistic therapy aims to achieve health and wellness by aligning a person’s body, mind, spirit, and emotions. This type of therapy can be beneficial for people who are coping with a large amount of stress. Holistic therapists help clients work through a variety of situations they wish to improve, including symptoms of PTSD.
Meditation is the practice of using awareness to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally stable state. Typically, a person will sit in a comfortable position with no distractions and either focus on their breathing or follow along to a guided meditation. There are many types of meditation including:
Mindfulness Meditation: participants pay attention to thoughts that pass through their mind without judgment. They simply observe the thought and take note of any patterns.
Spiritual Meditation: Similar to prayer, participants reflect in silence and try to seek a deeper connection with God or the Universe.
Focused Meditation: Participants use one of the five senses to concentrate. This type of meditation focuses on grounding and being in the present.
Movement Meditation: This type of meditation consists of walking, gardening, or other gentle forms of movement. Typically this meditation uses yoga.
Mantra Meditation: This meditation uses repetitive sounds to help clear the mind. Chanting the mantra can help you become more alert with your environment, allowing you deeper levels of awareness.
Transcendental Meditation: This is a customizable practice that uses a mantra or a series of words that are specific to each practitioner.
Studies have shown that meditation is a promising approach to PTSD treatment. People who experience flashbacks, a common symptom of PTSD, can benefit from meditation because it helps keep the person in the present. Other studies have found that meditation can help reduce PTSD symptoms, particularly in war veterans. If you would like to try meditation, consider the following tips:
Find a guide who understands trauma and meditation;
Meditate only in places you feel safe;
Wear something comfortable;
Start out with a shorter meditation and work your way up to longer ones;
Have a clear motivation
Acupuncture involves inserting tiny, thin needles at strategic points in your body. Developed in China, it is known to relieve stress by stimulating nerves. Similarly, acupressure consists of the same practice without the needles. Practitioners may ask about your lifestyle, symptoms, and behaviors, and try to determine the best course of action for your acupuncture or acupressure. They will also look at painful parts of your body, the shape and color of your tongue, the color of your face, and your pulse. Both acupuncture and acupressure consist of practitioners putting needles or pressure onto pressure points on the body, seemingly helping to restore the flow of energy.
People who suffer from PTSD can also suffer from anxiety and prolonged stress. Studies have shown that acupuncture could help reduce anxiety symptoms. While acupuncture requires a professional to administer the needles, acupressure could be performed at home. Common pressure points to look into include:
Hall of Impression Point: This point is between your eyebrows and can help relieve anxious feelings and stress. Apply gentle but firm pressure to this point for five to ten minutes.
Heavenly Gate Point: This point is located on your upper ear on the cartilage and can help relieve anxious feelings, stress, and insomnia. To use this point, apply pressure in a circular motion for two minutes.
Shoulder Well Point: This point is located in your shoulder muscle at the juncture of your neck and shoulders. It is known to relieve stress, muscle tension, headaches, and can sometimes induce labor. To use this point, pinch the muscle then release and massage the point for four to five seconds.
Union Valley Point: This pressure point is located between your thumb and your pointer finger, and is said to relieve stress, headaches, and neck pain. Massage the pressure point for four to five seconds.
Great Surge Point: This point is located about two to three fingers widths from the intersection of your first and second toes. You should feel a hollow point just above the bone. This point can help reduce anxious feelings, stress, insomnia, and menstrual cramps. Apply firm pressure to this point and massage for four to five seconds.
Inner Frontier Gate Point: This point is located on your inner arm about three fingers widths from your wrist. It can help relieve anxious feelings, nausea, and pain. Apply pressure to the point and massage for four to five seconds.
Complementary therapies are typically used with standard medical treatments. For instance, cancer patients can use complementary therapies or treatments to help relieve symptoms from their standard medical treatments. For people suffering from PTSD, complementary therapies could work in tandem with other therapies and medications. Examples of complementary therapies include:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This psychotherapy procedure was designed to alleviate the stress associated with traumatic events and memories. During therapy sessions, the client will follow an object moving bilaterally with their eyes as they recount traumatic events. EMDR is known to help clients process the memory and associated feelings, transforming them into feelings of strength and empowerment.
Biofeedback: This type of therapy is a mind-body technique that allows the participant to gain control over involuntary bodily functions like blood flow, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and pain perception. By recognizing the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety through biofeedback, it is believed the patient can learn how to relax their minds and bodies to better cope with PTSD symptoms.
Hypnosis: This type of therapy puts the patient in a trance-like state with heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis is known to help patients gain control over unwanted behaviors and anxiety, such as exaggerated startles or flashbacks as seen in PTSD patients.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): This technique is also called tapping or psychological acupressure, and is often used to help alleviate emotional distress. EFT is similar to acupressure in that therapists tap on pressure points to help send signals to the part of the brain that controls stress.
It’s important to remember that these therapies should be used with standard medical treatments, not in place of them. Talking to your doctor can help you form a successful treatment plan.
In massage therapy, therapists use specific techniques to strengthen certain areas with soft tissue. Typically, this type of therapy is used on people who have suffered injuries, diseases, or ailments; however, it is increasingly being used on people who suffer from PTSD. Some of the benefits of massage therapy include:
Reduced cortisol levels;
Stimulated positive neurotransmitters;
Reduced physical pain;
Increased trust with a therapist;
Increased peace of mind.
Some studies found that massage therapy helped veterans with PTSD reduce symptoms including physical pain, tension, irritability, anxiety, and depression. There are many types of massage therapy, including:
It is important to find a massage therapist that has experience working with patients with PTSD; this way, the therapist can better address your symptoms and invoke a trusting environment.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils to help heal the mind and body. Essential oils are extracted from plants and seeds and can be used separately or together, depending on the desired effect. True essential oils are obtained through distillation, like cold pressing. Oils obtained through chemical processing are not considered true essential oils, so you should be aware of how oils are created for a successful experience.
To experience aromatherapy, essential oils should be inhaled, not swallowed. They are also applied to different areas of the body and are absorbed by the skin. When inhaled, the aromas can stimulate the limbic system in your brain which plays a role in emotions, behaviors, sense of smells, and long-term memory. For people suffering from PTSD, some aromas can help alleviate fear, anxious feelings, stress, panic, depression, nightmares, and sleep disturbances.
Scents that could be helpful in reducing PTSD symptoms include:
Cedarwood: This essential oil can have sedative qualities, making it beneficial for those that suffer from insomnia. It is also said to help reduce anxious feelings and stress.
Lemon Balm: This oil is considered calming and helps to reduce anxious feelings. It can also promote sleep, improve appetites, and help ease indigestion.
Ylang Ylang: Oil from this tropical flower can help reduce sad and anxious feelings, calms emotions, help decrease heart rate, and lower blood pressure.
Lavender: This oil is commonly associated with reducing anxious feelings. It can also help alleviate headaches, insomnia, and stress.
Homeopathy is medicine that embraces a holistic and natural approach to broad symptom relief. It centers around supporting the patient physically, psychologically, and emotionally instead of just addressing one ailment at a time. Homeopathy is guided by three principles:
Let Likes Cure Likes: This principle states that a substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can be used in a diluted form to help relieve symptoms.
The Minimum Dose: This principle consists of diluting the remedies to avoid negative reactions and help the remedy reach higher potency.
The Single Remedy: Many practitioners try to prescribe a single remedy in order to clearly see the effects on patients.
Products that are labeled homeopathic will often contain a variety of substances including plant ingredients, minerals, chemicals, and ingredients from animal sources. Additionally, the ingredients listed will be in terms of dilution. Often homeopathy consists of using medicinal herbs. Medicinal herbs cover a wide range of plants and are known to help alleviate certain symptoms.
Some medicinal herbs can help alleviate the effects of traumatic stress. However, it’s important to note that these herbs should be diluted properly, as they can have extremely negative effects. Be sure to contact a homeopathy practitioner for the correct usage and dosage of these herbs.
Aconite: This flower, also known as wolfsbane, is typically used for relieving fear, anxious feelings, restlessness, and headaches. Homeopathy practitioners recommend this herb for sudden panic attacks.
Arnica: This flower is similar in looks to a daisy, and is also known as mountain tobaccos. Diluted arnica can help support cartilage and joint function.
Stramonium: This herb is recommended for people who experience night terrors, nightmares, or dark thoughts.
Adaptogens are a group of herbs that helps reduce anxious feelings. These herbs can adapt their function according to specific needs your body has, including physical, chemical, and biological. Depending on how stressed your body is, adaptogens can release the correct response needed for balanced chemical functionality. Studies have found that adaptogens can increase mental capacity that is otherwise diminished by stress and fatigue, common symptoms of PTSD. The most common adaptogens are:
Licorice: Boosts endurance and energy;
Ashwagandha: Reduces anxious feelings;
Astragalus: Combats fatigue;
Jiaogulan: Reduces stress and boosts endurance;
American ginseng: Increases energy and improves cognitive function;
Cordyceps: Can reduce stress and balance hormones;
Eleuthero root: Improves focus and reduces mental fatigue;
Turmeric: Boosts brain function and reduces sad feelings;
CBD: Reduces sad and anxious feelings;
Nervines are herbs that support the nervous system. These herbs can be classified as stimulants, relaxants, or tonics. Nervine tonics can help strengthen the nervous system while nervine relaxants and stimulants can sedate or energize nervous systems, respectively. Those that experience anxiety brought on by PTSD can find these herbs useful. Common nervines include:
Kava kava: Helps reduce anxious feelings and pain;
Chamomile: A common nighttime tea that can promote relaxation.
California poppy: Promotes relaxation and calm;
Catnip: Promotes sleep in children and elderly participants;
Lavender: A calming herb mostly used in aromatherapy;
Lemon balm: Helps reduce nervous exhaustion, gloom, and restlessness;
Oat tops: Helps reduce fatigue and supports nerve functioning;
Passionflower: Helps relieve tension and restlessness;
Skullcap: Helps relieve tension, stress, circular thoughts, and nervousness;
Valerian: Supports relaxation at night.
These additional herbs are not classified as adaptogens or nervines, however, they can still help relieve PTSD symptoms. These herbs include:
Matcha: Matcha is a ground powder made from the leaves of green tea bushes. It has been known to help people relax. Studies have shown that matcha tea can reduce anxiety in mice, and scientists hope this can translate to humans.
Bacopa: This plant grows in tropical environments and is said to alleviate anxious feelings and boost brain function. Some studies have found that taking bacopa consistently can significantly reduce anxiety and depression.
Rose: Rose tea can promote relaxation and reduce anxious feelings. In one study, anxiety decreased in mice suffering from chronic stress when administered rose extract.
Oat straw: Oat straw is often found as a tincture, but can also be found in powder and capsule form. It is claimed to help improve insomnia, stress, and overall brain health.
Hawthorn: The hawthorn berry, as well as the leaves, bark, flowers, and stems, have been used as anti-anxiety aids for many years. It has a mild sedative effect and is known to have less negative effects than some traditional medications.
Supplements are a manufactured product intended to help supplement certain diets. They can be a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid, and can provide nutrients a person would otherwise not get through their standard meals. Typically, people are prescribed supplements by doctors if they have a deficiency, like an iron deficiency or a magnesium deficiency. Some supplements can help support mental health when taken alongside traditional medication. The most common supplements include:
Omega-3 fatty acids: These acids are found in fish and flaxseed, and could improve overall brain health. One study shows that taking an Omega-3 supplement could help people with anxiety.
A daily multivitamin: Multivitamins can contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that can positively affect people with anxiety. For instance, one study showed that people taking certain multivitamins had significantly decreased anxiety symptoms.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): This nutrient occurs naturally in the body and acts as an antioxidant. Taking this supplement could reduce feelings of sadness and calm emotions.
L-theanine: This amino acid could be used as an anti-anxiety aid. One study found people who consumed 200 milligrams of l-theanine had a lower stress response.
Melatonin: Melatonin also occurs naturally in the body and helps regulate sleep. If a person does not produce enough melatonin, they could feel restless and anxious. This supplement can promote better sleep quality and regulate the circadian rhythm.
Vitamins B12, B6, and B5: B vitamins can help manage many body processes including stress levels. One study found that people who ate foods high in B vitamins had lower anxiety and stress.
Vitamin C: Having a vitamin C deficiency could make you feel tired or depressed, which means taking this supplement could help decrease sad and anxious feelings.
Those suffering from PTSD can acquire long-term negative effects. There are many tell-tale signs and symptoms that should be treated by experts. If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and it is affecting your daily life and relationships, it’s time to see a doctor or a counselor. Below is a list of resources that can help those suffering from PTSD.
National Center for PTSD: The Center is the world’s leading research and education organization for PTSD. They offer articles, treatment options, self-help resources, and literature for the family and loved ones of people who suffer from PTSD.
PTSD Alliance: This website hosts five national and international organizations that serve people with PTSD. Many of the organizations offer resources, treatments, and support groups.
PTSD Foundation of America: This foundation supports war veterans who suffer from PTSD. They provide support groups, treatment, and mentorship.
Veterans Families United: VFU is a not-for-profit that offers comprehensive resources for veterans and their families. They also provide information on how to access benefits and assistance.
American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress: This is a network of professionals in healthcare, emergency services, criminal justice, forensics, law, business, and education. They aim to provide the necessary training and awareness in the previous fields to better accommodate people with PTSD.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: The ADAA helps find treatment, resources, and support for those suffering from anxiety, PTSD, depression, OCD, and other co-occurring disorders.
Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (USUHS): This center helps advance trauma care through research, education, training, and resources. Factsheets, publications, and research papers are readily available for those that need them.
David Baldwin’s Trauma Information Pages: This site supports resources that pertain to emotional trauma and traumatic stress and provides information for clinicians and researchers.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN): This network wishes to raise awareness and standards when it comes to treating children with PTSD. They provide treatments, practices, and other resources for families and practitioners.
PTSD can be an overwhelming and debilitating mental illness. However, with the right medical care, holistic therapies, and homeopathic remedies, people who suffer from PTSD can obtain coping mechanisms that can help them lead successful lives.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content and media is for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.