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A Trip Through Some Non-Traditional PTSD Treatments

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can range from mild discomfort to completely debilitating. There are several treatments including medication and psychotherapy, but there is also a burgeoning collection of activities that people are finding therapeutic in addressing their PTSD symptoms. Screening for Mental Health has interviewed veterans with PTSD and learned about their success in trying non-traditional treatments. PTSD is not just for veterans, and about 8% of people will experience the condition at some point in their lives.

Dogs. A Psychology Today article outlined how dogs can help people with PTSD symptoms.

  • They’re vigilant.  A dog by your side can be like a buddy. He or she alerts you to danger, and the dog’s calm can let you know that there is no actual pending danger—regardless of what your overdeveloped sense of fear may be telling you.
  • They’re protective.  If you’ve ever seen a dog growl when someone gets too close to its owner, you can feel the protection. It’s good to know someone’s watching your back.
  • They love you no matter what. People with PTSD can sometimes have a difficult time operating in the social circles in which they used to enjoy. Dogs don’t care. Having a bad day? Being short with family members? Your pooch is still overjoyed at the sight of your face – and wants to demonstrate that joy.

Meditation. Veteran David George’s life had spiraled out of control after his service and subsequent PTSD. When he turned to transcendental meditation, he was shocked at the peace it brought him. He said it was the first time his mind had been free from anxiety — even for just 20 minutes, in a long time.

Fishing. There’s even a name for fishing as therapy: piscatorial therapy. A 2009 study done by researchers at the University of Southern Maine, the University of Utah, and the Salt Lake City VA saw a significant improvement in the symptoms of veterans with PTSD after they took part in a two-day, three-night residential fly fishing retreat.

Mindfulness and gardening. Army veteran Elijah Ochoa was suffering from such severe PTSD that just listening to the hum of city noises made him think of being at the site of a mass casualty. Wracked with anxiety, Ochoa sought all the help he could get. When a friend did a mindfulness exercise with him, he was overjoyed at the peace he felt. He started to garden and found that it brought him the same therapeutic effect the mindfulness brought. He felt so strongly about it that he started a program to encourage other veterans with PTSD to come and experience the healing powers of gardening.

Writing.  Some people find writing about a traumatic event helps them to process what happened to them. They find it especially helpful to write about how different aspects of the event made them feel.

Of course, standard treatment approaches such as medication and therapy can be effective for many people, but letting the members of your community know that there are other. Let your community members know that, in addition to traditional treatments, there are several other ways to alleviate PTSD symptoms.