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Treating PTSD And Depression With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

July 29, 2015

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven effective in treating a multitude of mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. CBT is based on the assumption that a person’s mood is directly related to his or her patterns of thought. For instance, if a person with PTSD consistently feels that they are in danger, their mood may be anxious. If a person with depression consistently repeats negative self-talk, their mood will may be sad and listless. CBT helps a person to recognize their negative patterns of thought, evaluate whether they are valid, and replace them with healthier thoughts. The post below demonstrates how CBT can help people struggling with PTSD and/or depression.

CBT and PTSD

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder typified by repetitive stress reactions following a traumatic event, such as military combat, serious accident, or physical or sexual assault. People with PTSD may experience nightmares or flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and/or feel detached or estranged, which can worsen over time if the person does not receive treatment. CBT can help people suffering with PTSD by carefully and gradually exposing them to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind them of the trauma. Therapy involves identifying upsetting thoughts about the traumatic event, especially thoughts that are distorted or irrational, and replacing them with a more balanced perspective. For instance, a veteran who has experienced a trauma during combat may feel panicked and overwhelmingly afraid when they hear the sound of glass breaking. CBT can help the veteran to recognize that glass breaking does not always signal danger, and can be associated with other less serious events, such as construction or kids playing.

CBT and Depression

More than one out of eight people will have an episode of depression in their lifetime. Depression involves losing motivation and interest in things they used to enjoy, a decreased ability to enjoy life, and feeling regularly sad or down. CBT can help to treat depression through identifying the distorted negative thinking that causes negative emotions, questioning the veracity of these thoughts, and coming up with alternative balanced thoughts. Therapists can work with patients to help them identify the core beliefs underlying their daily negative thinking. For example, a depressed person may have the core belief, “I am stupid,” when he or she gets negative feedback at work. This will lead to negative thoughts such as, “the work I am doing is pointless,” or “I can’t make things better.” CBT will help him or her to replace those negative thoughts with more balanced ones, such as, “I made a mistake, but it’s not the end of the world.” These balanced thoughts will help the depressed person to eventually replace the core belief underlying the negative thought.

If you are struggling with PTSD or depression, Prevail Health utilizes CBT as part of its programs to help people struggling with a variety of mental health issues. Visit vetsprevail.com or iprevail.com to access our services. Two clinical trials of Prevail’s programs demonstrated effectiveness equivalent to traditional therapy. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also has some helpful information on psychotherapy.

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