My Anxiety Plan for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The following strategies are designed for you to use as you begin to tackle Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These strategies are best used for adults with mild-moderate signs of this type of anxiety and related disorder. For individuals with more severe symptoms or who have been diagnosed with PTSD, we recommend treatment with a mental health professional, although MAP strategies can be used at home to support your therapy work.
Step 1. Helping you become an expert on anxiety
This is an important first step, as the information outlined in this step can help you understand what is happening when you experience anxiety. Learning that the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing have a name -anxiety- and that millions of other people also have anxiety, can be a great relief. To become an expert on anxiety you will want to read about the facts and learn important information. The following links can provide you with this information: ABC's of Anxiety: Understanding How Anxiety Works & Anxiety 101: What You Need to Know About Anxiety & Anxiety 102: More Facts & Fight-Flight-Freeze & When Anxiety Becomes a Problem: What’s Normal and What's Not
Reading about the information outlined on the PTSD main page can help you feel less afraid of what is happening to you. After all, knowledge is power.
The following list includes some facts and highlights about trauma, and about individuals who develop PTSD:
- Exposure to trauma can be direct, such as being involved in a motor vehicle accident, a natural disaster, or an assault, among others, and indirect, such as witnessing a murder, learning about the rape of a partner, or listening to urgent calls at a call centre, among others.
- Although a majority of people will likely experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, many do not develop PTSD.
- The chance of developing PTSD goes up if the trauma was very severe, chronic (that is, lasted a long time), or you were physically close to the event, that is, if the trauma happened right next to you or in front of you.
- Certain traumas are more likely to lead to PTSD than others. For example, you are more likely to develop PTSD if the trauma you experienced was a rape/sexual assault, combat exposure or childhood neglect/physical abuse.
- PTSD can include some scary symptoms (such as nightmares, flashbacks or vivid memories of the trauma), causing some adults to fear they are going “crazy”. However, you are not going crazy, but rather your mind and body is adjusting to this upsetting event and these symptoms are a normal response to trauma.
Step 3: Creating your PTSD MAP
The best way to help deal with anxiety, fear and related symptoms of PTSD
is to have access to tools to cope with your experiences. These tools are intended to increase your ability to tolerate anxiety, rather than to eliminate anxiety. Anxiety exists everywhere, and therefore it is an illusion to believe we can eliminate the source and experience of anxiety. It is far more effective to have tools to tolerate and cope, rather than to control and escape. For PTSD, you might want to use any or all of the following tools to create your MAP: My Anxiety Plan. These tools are listed in a recommended order, although proceeding in this order will depend on your needs and interests. Challenge Negative Thinking and Facing Your Fears will be two of the most important tools for you to use to gain relief from your symptoms.
- Calm Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Helpful Thinking
- Challenging Negative Thinking
- Cognitive Coping Cards
- Facing Your Fears: Exposure
- Exposure therapy for PTSD
- Worry Scripts
- Reassurance Seeking
- Partner Assisted Rituals
- Rewarding Bravery
- Tolerating Uncertainty
- Relapse Prevention
- Returning to Routines and Pleasant Events
Final point: Although increased knowledge and the many tools available on this website can be very effective in helping you to manage your PTSD, sometimes it is not enough. Some adults have very severe anxiety and related symptoms as a result of their trauma, and despite all their best efforts, they might still be struggling daily with anxiety symptoms. If this is the case for you, we recommend you seek professional help through a consultation session with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychologist/mental health worker.