As someone who has posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I am often on the lookout for alternative therapies for my PTSD recovery. I recently started reading up on the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies that are suggested for PTSD (Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Treatment). Even though I will not abandon the conventional PTSD therapies that are currently working for me (psychiatric care and medication), I think that using alternative therapies as additions to my treatment can be beneficial in my PTSD recovery.
What Are Complementary and Alternative Therapies?
Complementary and alternative medicine is the terminology used to represent the group of therapies beyond traditional, Western, medical treatments. The word “complementary” denotes treatments that are used in conjunction with conventional methods of care, and the word “alternative” is used to describe treatments that are used instead of traditional treatments. CAM is also known as integrative medicine.
Most people who use CAM don’t truly use only alternative therapies, they are more likely to use some of the recommended treatments along with their current therapy programs.
How Do Complementary and Alternative Therapies Help PTSD Recovery?
Because PTSD is an anxiety disorder, any type of treatment or therapy that works for relieving stress and lessening anxiety may be beneficial to PTSD sufferers. Of course, not all people with PTSD react in the same way to specific treatments. What works for me, may not work for you, and vice versa. So, just like finding the most effective medication or the most compatible therapist, you have to try CAM therapies to see what works for you.
The use of complementary and alternative therapy approaches to PTSD treatment are on the rise, and many people find at least a portion of them to be helpful in dealing with PTSD and other anxiety-related issues.
What Are the Common Types of CAM Therapies?
The following are just a few of the more common CAM therapies being used in PTSD, anxiety, and depression treatment.
Evidence suggests that acupuncture–the Chinese practice of manipulating the body’s energy flow by inserting needles into the body at specific points–eases fear reactions and reduces nightmares and traumatic dreams.
Yoga is one of the top 10 CAM therapies recommended for reducing stress and anxiety. It is also known to lower blood pressure and heart rate in practitioners.
Daily meditation is shown to reduce stress and anxiety. There is moderate evidence that it is useful for PTSD treatment, especially when coupled with yoga.
The practice of bringing oneself to the present moment using mindfulness is often paired with meditation. It is another CAM therapy that is good for reducing stress and anxiety and improving mood.
Naturopathy is the use of natural substances to treat illnesses. It can include herbal, plant, or animal extracts. There are some naturally occurring substances that have the same biochemical mechanism as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), or antidepressants, which are commonly used for PTSD treatment. The efficacy of these substances has not been tested for PTSD though, and should not be used without consulting a doctor.
These therapies claim advantages over talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) by using additional techniques that include tapping acupuncture points, eye movements, use of special words, or biofeedback (When Talk Therapy Fails To Heal PTSD). Examples of power therapies are thought field therapy (TFT), emotional freedom techniques (EFT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), the Tapas acupressure technique (TAT), and trauma incident reduction (TIR). With the exception of EMDR, none of the power therapies have been successfully compared to traditional PTSD treatments.
Should You Try Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Your PTSD Recovery?
Most of the therapies above are thought to improve some PTSD symptoms. When they are used alongside your traditional treatment, they may prove to be useful to you. Taking natural supplements or using power therapies is best discussed with your mental health provider before you begin.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring the power therapies and their philosophies in more detail. In the meantime, if you have tried any CAM therapies, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below.