Allenmore Psychological Associates remains OPEN. During this period of concern and anxiety having access to quality behavioral health care is important and our staff is dedicated to ensuring your behavioral health care needs are met. In the unlikely event that the WA Department of Health directs us to close we will notify patients via telephone on the day of their appointment (similar to our Snow Day policy). If you are an existing patient who is demonstrating symptoms associated with the coronavirus or impacted by related closures (e.g. cannot find day care due to a school closure) and need to cancel we ask that you inform our staff as soon as possible, APA will not charge you for a late cancellation.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

We all feel afraid when we find ourselves in threatening or dangerous situations. Our brains have an innate “fight-or-flight” response designed to protect us from harm. It is also natural for feelings of intense fear or terror to persist for a prolonged period of time following exposure to a threatening situation. In fact, we are biologically programmed to have these feelings in order to protect ourselves. Eventually, we expect to get over these feelings, and to be able to move on with our lives. Instead, however, some people develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This results when the normal “fight-or-flight” response becomes altered or “stuck.” As a result, individuals who suffer from PTSD continue to feel afraid and in danger – even when no real threat exists. This persistent fear can cause them to develop a variety of symptoms that result in significant suffering and lingering impairments in their functioning.

Most people would be surprised to learn just how common PTSD is. It has been estimated that over seven million adults in America currently suffer from PTSD resulting from having experienced a wide variety of traumatic events. These events include childhood abuse and neglect, physical or sexual assault, other violent crimes and combat experiences. PTSD can also result from more common experiences such as choking incidents, automobile accidents, workplace injuries and natural disasters (for instance floods or hurricanes). Under the right set of circumstances, it is possible for people of any age to develop PTSD.

The most important thing to understand about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is that effective help is available – meaning there is hope for anyone who struggles with its often-debilitating symptoms. Every day many people receive the type of treatment that leads to a reduction in, or even complete elimination of the uncomfortable symptoms that previously held them hostage. The case description presented on our EMDR page provides just one example of the countless opportunities our clinicians here at Allenmore Psychological Associates (APA) have had to help people overcome posttraumatic stress (click here to see the EMDR page). The therapists at APA have many years of experience and specialized training which allows them to provide effective PTSD treatment to Seattle-Tacoma area clients. There is no reason that you or someone you care about should suffer when effective treatment is readily available to help you move forward and enjoy life more fully.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

To be diagnosed with PTSD, an individual must have experienced a traumatic event that triggers their symptoms. This can include actual or threatened exposure to serious injury, sexual assault, or death. An individual can also develop PTSD after witnessing the death or injury of another person, or upon learning of the death or injury of a close friend or relative. Experiences involving serious illness or particularly painful medical procedures can also result in PTSD. This disorder can cause a variety of symptoms, most commonly grouped into the following four categories:

1. Re-experiencing the event

Memories of the event can return at any time. When they do, an individual may feel the same fear, terror or helplessness that they felt during the actual event. Many different things can trigger a re-experiencing of the trauma. For example, seeing an individual who reminds you of the perpetrator that harmed you can trigger PTSD symptoms. Simply daydreaming or thinking about the trauma can cause an individual to re-experience trauma as well. The most common re-experiencing symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks (vividly re-experiencing the traumatic event in one’s memory)
  • Frightening or violent nightmares about the event
  • Intrusive thoughts or mental images related to the original event
2. Avoiding reminders of the event

Individuals with PTSD often attempt to avoid experiences associated with their traumatic event. This is done in an effort to increase feelings of safety, prevent anxiety attacks, and avoid re-experiencing the trauma. These types of symptoms frequently include:

  • Staying away from certain people, places, events, or objects that remind the person of their trauma
  • Keeping busy all of the time in order to avoid thinking about the traumatic event
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs in order to distract oneself from thoughts related to the trauma
3. Becoming “emotionally numb”

Traumatized people often have difficulty feeling and expressing their emotions. They avoid thinking or talking about the trauma, as well as their emotions about other experiences or people. Numbing symptoms can include:

  • Feeling emotionally distant, “shut down” or “dead inside”
  • Loss of loving, caring or concerned feelings towards other people
  • A lack of interest in being around other people
4. Becoming over-reactive and always feeling “on guard”

These symptoms are also commonly referred to as “hyperarousal” and “hypervigilence”. Examples include:

  • Constantly scanning the environment for signs of threat or danger
  • An inability to tolerate being in crowds
  • Feeling extremely anxious about having people behind them
  • Startling easily

What Can Be Done To Help People with PTSD?

At Allenmore Psychological Associates we understand that all individuals are unique, and that no two traumatic events are exactly alike. As a result, we believe that the most effective treatment is always tailored to the individual client. To accomplish this, we generally begin our work by getting to know the patient and obtaining a thorough personal history. After having taken the time to truly listen to the individual and get a sense of their significant life experiences we begin to narrow our focus to the specific traumatic events that led them to seek treatment.

As part of this process, it is important for the therapist to develop a clear understanding of any traumas that the client may have experienced earlier in life. Prior traumas, and in particular those experienced during childhood, have the potential to exert a powerful influence on the way in which future traumatic events are experienced. In order to provide our clients with the greatest possible amount of relief, our therapists will also assess for other problems that have been shown to intensify experiences of posttraumatic stress. The most common of these co-occurring issues are other anxiety disorders, depression, anger issues, substance abuse, sleep disturbance, and marital or family problems. One of the advantages of seeking treatment at APA is that our diverse staff of clinicians have spent decades gaining training and experience which enables us to insure that our clients will receive the best available treatment for a wide variety of PTSD-related concerns. As a part of this process, we may ask clients to complete appropriate psychological rating scales or tests which will help us to develop a better understanding of their current problems and treatment needs. Once the assessment is completed, an individualized treatment plan is constructed and tailored to the individual in order to effectively relieve their symptoms and restore their ability to enjoy life.There are a number of research-based psychotherapy and treatment approaches that we utilize at Allenmore Psychological Associates to treat PTSD. These include:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The goal of CBT is to help people understand the relationship between the way they view and think about the trauma, and the suffering and dysfunction caused by it. Oftentimes, distorted or biased ways of thinking maintain and magnify the symptoms of PTSD. CBT focuses on empowering the individual to think about the trauma and themselves in a more realistic and balanced manner. Focusing on developing coping skills and dealing effectively with previously avoided situations are common CBT goals in treating PTSD.

2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is an evidence-based trauma therapy that focuses on altering the way our brain stores traumatic memories. Traumatic events seem to shock our brain and interrupt its ability to process and integrate the event. As a result, the traumatic event gets “stuck” in the brain and stored in a dysfunctional manner. Because of this, the traumatized individual re-experiences the event over and over again, as if it had just happened. This results in distress and interferes with their ability to function effectively in life. EMDR therapy focuses on facilitating our brain to process the traumatic event in a healthier way, which results in the reduction and elimination of PTSD symptoms (Learn more about EMDR Therapy at Allenmore Psychological Associates. We also encourage you to visit our resources section for helpful books and articles about EMDR.)

3. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is based upon the understanding that when individuals are hurt and experience emotional pain, they naturally tend to try to escape from the pain. Attempts to escape or avoid our inner experiences may be what leads to emotional suffering and creates PTSD symptoms. ACT helps individuals develop mindfulness and acceptance of their inner experiences. This allows individuals to “take a step back” from their feelings. In ACT, the therapist works with clients to clarify what matters most to them and then encourages them to live a life that reflects their values, rather than a life based on avoidance.

4. Medication Management

In addition to psychotherapy, many individuals suffering from PTSD also benefit from psychotropic medication as part of their comprehensive treatment plan. Our Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) are highly skilled in assessing individuals for medications to treat PTSD symptoms and other co-existing conditions. ARNPS play an important role in the assessment, prescription and monitoring of psychotropic medications. At present, there are two drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating adults with PTSD – paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft). These and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications may also help individuals with symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, worry, and emotional numbing.

Contact Us for Help With PTSD

At APA our therapists have over three decades of experience treating a wide range of PTSD and other trauma-related conditions. We are ideally located in Tacoma, WA to provide the PTSD treatment Seattle and greater Puget Sound area residents need to obtain relief from this troubling disorder. There is no need to continue suffering with PTSD symptoms when effective treatment is available. For more information about treatments for PTSD available at Allenmore Psychological Associates, or to schedule an initial appointment, please call (253) 752-7320.

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