Reducing PTSD Impact by Controlling the Narrative

With a literal and figurative wave of natural disasters on our shores and an uptick in violence against U.S. citizens and soldiers around the globe, understanding how to best treat PTSD is vital. The condition is triggered by experienced trauma, but it can quickly grow in severity as the person mentally rehearses the event(s) over and over again in their mind. Often, the memory morphs along the way. Attempts to manage those memories, known as reconsolidation, have not always proven successful. But a new intervention tested in a hospital setting is showing promising results.

The intervention was recently outlined in an online article which described how the study was conducted along with its results. Researchers positioned themselves in a hospital emergency room and tracked volunteer participants who entered the hospital following a trauma such as violent crime, automobile accident or sexual assault. One half of the participants received immediate intervention and the second half didn’t. The intervention consisted of the person’s relating his/her experience to a therapist and having that re-telling recorded.

Victims were directed to play their recordings daily. They were also helped by therapists to recognize and reject thoughts which threatened self-recrimination. Lastly, participants were given instruction in relaxed breathing techniques. Regular assessments were made over a three month period for both groups.

At the end of the three month period, those who had received immediate intervention fared better than those who had not. Those who received immediate help in maintaining a clear and correct narrative of the trauma along with some minor behavioral strategies showed fewer signs of intensifying PTSD compared to those who received no intervention. The study could prove valuable if the same measures were employed by first responders following natural disasters, crime scenes or even combat situations.

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