Therapies & activities to ease PTSD symptoms

Therapies & activities to ease PTSD symptoms

In the UK, there are 2 main psychological treatments recommended for treating PTSD in adults:  Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) (based on NICE guidance updated in 2018).

There are however, many other therapies and activities which can be used to ease PTSD symptoms whilst you’re waiting for these treatments, or to work alongside treatments. Some have short, and some have long term effects, but when offered as part of a carefully formulated programme of therapy and coping techniques for PTSD, they can offer people a welcome source of relief. You can find details about many of these below.

It is always risky to assume any of the ways to ease PTSD symptoms are ‘quick fixes’, including ones that show promise in redirecting negative emotional responses. However, it is all about having realistic expectations, and finding what works for you.

Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.

Yoga

Regular yoga has been shown to reduce physiological arousal in those with PTSD, helping the autonomic nervous system to adapt better to triggers and stimuli. In other words, yoga helps minimise the risk of the body experiencing intrusive memories and other physical symptoms of PTSD. Find out more about yoga and PTSD here.

Meditation

Meditation is simply a series of steps to create heightened awareness, focus and calmness which makes it a valuable psychotherapeutic technique to help people cope with PTSD. It can give individuals better control of their minds and emotions. Find out more about the science of meditation and its application.

Havening Technique

This psychosensory therapy is used to address deep rooted anxiety, rumination, and severe, instinctive negative responses – it puts your emotional responses into a safe space – a haven. It can provide a way to break a cycle of negative emotional responses. Read more about The Havening Technique here.

Accelerated resolution therapy

Although there have only been a handful of studies on ART and PTSD so far, the results have been encouraging, and more therapists are starting to offer it. Read more about what ART is, and if it might be suitable for you here. 

Music Therapy

Music therapy can stimulate the release of positive hormones such as oxytocin, counteract hormones linked to increased stress and provides sensory input that makes us instinctively ease muscle tension. These are all so important to people with PTSD! Find out more about music therapy for PTSD here. 

Martial Arts

Martial arts allow you to understand and develop a good relationship with power, helps you express emotions, helps to practice self-care, helps set and maintain boundaries, can help you relax, and can also help with disassociation by reconnecting the body and mind with repetitive movements. Find out more about how it helps with PTSD symptoms.

Equine (horse) Therapy

Research studies have shown that therapeutic horseback riding can lead to a significant statistical decrease in PTSD symptoms, such as insomnia, flashbacks or panic attacks, after just three weeks. Find out more about how horse therapy can help people with PTSD here.

Surfing & Ocean Therapy

Time with the ocean, or the ‘blue gym’ as it’s also known, has long been celebrated as a way to calm the mind and rejuvenate the body, and several US based foundations and charities specifically promote this method of healing for PTSD sufferers, “we believe we can heal each other one wave at a time”. Find out more about surfing can help with PTSD here

Medication

It’s not routine practice for people experiencing PTSD to be prescribed medication, but you may be offered it if you are experiencing insomnia, have other mental health conditions like depression, or are either unable or unwilling to have therapies such as EMDR or CBT. Find out more about medication for PTSD here. 

Acupuncture

Many research studies have shown acupuncture to be effective for treating PTSD symptoms. It can act on parts of the brain known for reducing sensitivity to stress and help promote relaxation as well as combatting other issues such as sore joints, painful muscles, lack of energy, and disrupted sleep. Find out more about acupuncture and PTSD here

Running

The reduction in PTSD symptoms from running is thought to be down to a boost in levels of a brain protein called ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factor’. This BDN protein is generally low in people with PTSD, and plays a role in fear extinction by helping the brain establish context, and therefore a sense of safety. You can read more about how running can help PTSD here

Rapid Stress Management Technique (RSMT)

It has been shown that PTSD can be soothed by using a device like a fidget spinner or stress ball that is reassuring, close at hand and creates a soothing pattern or repeated action. If someone is suffering from flashbacks, a panic attack or a ‘loop’ of negative thoughts, they can focus on the patterns created with a fidget spinner instead. Find out more about this here. 

Art Therapy

Producing art can work to change neural pathways in the brain, which can help to change how we think and feel. Art therapy has been shown to bring together a mind-body connectedness, bi-lateral stimulation, conscious and unconscious mental activity, communication between the limbic system and cerebral cortex functioning, and allow the brain to use mental and visual imagery. Find out more about how art therapy can help people with PTSD here.

Hydrotherapy

For many years, water has been seen to have healing properties – not only does it help in cleaning and healing physical wounds, but it can also have a hugely positive effect on mental health too. With hydrotherapy, water is used to help relieve any discomfort and promote a better sense of well-being. Find out more about the methods and science of hydrotherapy to ease PTSD symptoms here

Narrative Exposure Therapy

(NET) can be used to help individuals who have faced multiple or complex traumas (sometimes referred to as C-PTSD), and also children who have experienced severe trauma. It links to trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy, however, they do differ. Particularly as Narrative Exposure Therapy works along a lifeline, exploring experiences in chronological order. Find out more about NET here.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapies aim to tackle avoidance, and instead encourages the individual to change their learned behaviours and manage emotional responses. They are designed to explore traumatic events and experiences, as well as their reaction to them. Find out more about Exposure Therapy here.

Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises

Whenever you experience something traumatic, your psoas muscle constricts and ‘locks in’ the tension in the body. Dr Berceli used this physiological link between emotional responses and muscles to create a series of exercises that help the body to release trauma and tension. Find out more about TRE here.

Writing & Journalling

Journaling provides a safe place for random thoughts, feelings and experiences that would otherwise clutter your mind. Putting words down on paper becomes cathartic and can deescalate emotional reactions. Find out more about how writing helps people with PTSD here.

Talking therapies and counselling

Talking therapies are a way of building more self-awareness and self-management techniques. For many people, talking therapies also allow them to get into a ‘better place’ to allow them to make sense of their trauma and their PTSD to allow them to begin treatments. Find out more here.

Rewind Technique

The Rewind Technique enables you to review and revisit events, in a controlled and dissociative way. You expose yourself to memories without connecting to the emotional and mental impact they create. Find out more about Rewind Therapy here.

Wild Swimming

The theory is around our stress response and inflammation. Immersing yourself in cold water puts your body into fight or flight mode. Starting with the cold-water shock response, dipping into cold water puts your body under stress. As you repeat this experience, you diminish (and learn to control) this stress response.  Find out more about cold water therapy and wild swimming here. 

Geocaching

 
Geocaching (think of it as a modern-day treasure hunt that uses your mobile phone or GPS device) is a controllable activity which can be a great form of distraction, and focus, at the same time. You can dip in and out whenever you want to, as there are no time limits or other forms of pressure – just the thrill of working out the clues and location and finding the ‘treasure’! Find out more here. 

Beachcombing

The definition of beachcombing varies, but it fundamentally means walking the shoreline in search of items of interest. This could be shells, pebbles, sea-polished glass or driftwood for example.
There have been many studies showing the physiological and psychological benefits of being by the sea, and adding a focus to this can be very beneficial. Find out more here.

Gardening

Gardening can be incredibly beneficial to people with PTSD. It combines physical activity with social interaction and exposure to nature and sunlight. Sunlight lowers blood pressure as well as increasing vitamin D levels in the summer, and the fruit and vegetables that are produced have a positive impact on the diet. Find out more about how gardening can help ease PTSD symptoms here. 

Are you looking to fundraise for PTSD UK?

THANK YOU!!  We are a small charity so our main goals at the moment are to increase awareness that we exist (so people can get the support and information they need) and to maximise fundraising to allow us to achieve our mission of supporting everyone in the UK affected by PTSD, no matter the trauma that caused it.

Treatments for PTSD

It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.