About PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can start after someone has been exposed to a traumatic event, including: an actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence.

This could be something that has happened to you or an event that you have witnessed.

Typical traumatic events include:

  • Natural disasters e.g. Earthquake
  • Serious accident e.g. Car crash
  • Severe physical injury
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • War or military combat
  • Witnessing a murder or violent death
  • Traumatic birth experience

Around 50% of women and 60% of men will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lifetime.

7-8% of the population go on to suffer from PTSD after having experienced one of these traumatic events.

PTSD can begin immediately after the event or can come on weeks or months after, but will usually surface within 6 months.

Symptoms

There are three main symptom categories for PTSD:

1. Intrusions

(Flashbacks & Nightmares)

Patients suffering from PTSD may relive the event over and over again in their mind. This can happen during the day in the form of a flashback or when asleep in the form of a nightmare.

These flashbacks are extremely realistic and will cause the sufferer to feel as though they are re-experiencing the event again.

They may be able to see it in their mind but will also feel the same emotions (fear) and physical sensations (sweating, smells, tastes, pain) that they felt at the time.

2. Avoidance and Numbing

Patients suffering from PTSD may avoid any thoughts relating to the event by keeping their minds busy or distracting themselves with other things such as hobbies or work.

They might also begin to avoid any places or people that remind them of the event.

3. Hypervigilance

Patients with PTSD may feel “on edge” and alert all of the time, as though they are on the lookout for danger.

They may feel anxious and find it difficult to relax or sleep.

People around them may notice that they are jumpy, irritable or easily startled.

Other Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feelings of fear and panic
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Drinking too much alcohol

Treatments

As there are both psychological and physiological symptoms of PTSD, there are treatment options are available for both.

  • Psychotherapy
    This is a talking therapy that requires the patient to focus on the traumatic event so that they can put the event in to words. The aim is for the patient to remember the event without experiencing any feelings of fear or distress.
    This treatment is delivered in weekly, 60-90 minute sessions for 8-12 weeks.
  • CBT
    CBT is a treatment, which aims to help the patient understand their ‘habits of thinking’. They will be challenged to change these ways of thinking, which in turn will lead to a change in behaviour.
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
    EMDR requires patients to use certain eye movements in order to aid the processing of flashbacks and help the patient to make sense of the trauma. It aims to get the patient to process upsetting memories, thoughts, and feelings related to the trauma. By processing these experiences, patients can get relief from PTSD symptoms.
  • Medication
    Antidepressants may be prescribed to alleviate the depressive symptoms seen in PTSD.
  • Body focused therapies
    A range of physiological therapies e.g. physiotherapy, osteopathy, relexology, yoga and meditation used to provide the patient with ways of relaxing and managing stress.

rTMS

rTMS is a new, noninvasive technique that alters brain activity through repeated changes of the coil’s magnetic field. This modulation effect can reach both the cortex and subcortical areas, and depending on the frequency, rTMS can either decrease (low-frequency) or increase (high-frequency) cortical excitability.

rTMS has been included in the NICE guidelines as a safe and effective treatment for depression since 2015. Due to it’s good results, it is now also being offered as a treatment method for PTSD. Research has supported its use as a safe and effective treatment for PTSD and 3 meta analysis (Clark et al, 2015; Berlim and Van den Eynde, 2014; Karsen et al, 2014) have since corroborated this research.

References:

  • Clark C., Cole J., Winter C., Williams K., and Grammer G.: A review of transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Curr. Psychiatry Rep. 2015; 17: pp. 83.
  • Berlim M.T., and Van den Eynde F.: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for treating posttraumatic stress disorder: an exploratory meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind and sham-controlled trials. Can. J. Psychiatry 2014; 59: pp. 487-496.
  • Karsen E.E., Watts B.V., and Holtzheimer P.E.: Review of the effectiveness of transcranial magnetic stimulation for post-traumatic stress disorder. Brain Stimul. 2014; 7: pp. 151-157.

rTMS at Smart TMS, Ireland

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is available at Smart TMS Ireland, based at our clinic in Dublin.