Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Reactions to trauma are often marked by emotional and behavioral disruption. After suffering from a traumatic incident, some may suffer from PTSD, and the effects can be long-lasting. DBT is often useful in helping individuals regulate their emotions and behaviors in order to further understand and process their trauma.
Understanding Trauma: What is it?
Trauma is an emotional response to a disturbing or horrific event, overwhelming an individual’s ability to process and cope, often causing feelings of helplessness. There are two types of trauma: “Big T trauma,” and “Little t trauma.” A “Big T” traumatic experience is life-threatening or related to bodily harm, such as a car accident or rape. “Little t” traumas are highly stressful events but are non-life-threatening. They can include neglect, financial stress, or divorce. Any trauma can have long-lasting effects.
Understanding PTSD: What is it?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can be a result of a traumatic experience. After experiencing any type of trauma, one may develop PTSD. Signs of PTSD include reliving the event through flashbacks or nightmares, intense stress at reminders of the trauma, and physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling. Someone suffering from PTSD may avoid situations that remind them of the trauma they suffered. They may have strong negative actions to ordinary things such as a loud noise or an unexpected touch. People with PTSD are unable to process their trauma, leading to difficulty understanding and managing their emotions. They are easily triggered, react intensely, and take a long time to return to baseline. Their emotions often feel like they’re coming out of nowhere and are difficult to control and understand. Anxiety and depression are also common symptoms of PTSD. Someone with PTSD may experience interpersonal issues, have difficulty trusting, and often engage in self-destructive behaviors.
DBT for PTSD
DBT helps people with PTSD by giving them a toolkit to live a more effective and meaningful life. It is heavily focused on encouraging clients to understand and work with their emotional experiences. Through the four modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness, clients learn and utilize practical skills to enhance their everyday lives. DBT also focuses on removing maladaptive or self-destructive behavior commonly seen with those with PTSD. While fostering a strong and trusting relationship between client and therapist, DBT aims to help clients transfer their skills from therapy to real life, using them to cope with their symptoms of PTSD. Once equipped with the proper skills and emotional understanding, one can then begin to process their trauma.