Coping Strategies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is PTSD?

According to DSM-5:” Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.”

Symptoms of PTSD:

Symptoms of PTSD include:
  • Avoiding social conditions that may trigger flashbacks.
  • An increased condition of tension and anxiety.
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event.
  • Moodiness or anger outbursts.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Heightened startle response.

Beware of Negative Coping Strategies:

PTSD can have a lasting impact on a person’s well-being and if left untreated can lead to maladaptive coping strategies.  Some of the most common negative coping strategies include:
  • Alcohol and Drug Use.
  • Isolation and Social Withdrawal.
  • Increase in Controlling Behaviors.
  • Becoming Emotionally Numb or Detached.
The longer a person stays in negative behaviors, the more consequences they tend to experience.  For example, the more detached a person is, the more their detachment tends to impact their relationships.  Avoid slipping into self-defeating behaviors and instead use some of the strategies below to effectively cope with the impacts of PTSD.

Use Positive Coping Strategies:

Learning effective coping strategies can help minimize the impact that PTSD has on your emotional well-being.  Listed below are some helpful strategies to assist you in making life more manageable. 
  1. Cultivate Self-Awareness:
Pay attention to your own thoughts, feelings, and actions.  Notice the triggers that may lead to greater anxiety or stress.  The more mindful we are about our thoughts and actions, the more effective we tend to be at managing our emotions. 

  1. Use Journaling:
Utilizing journaling to express your thoughts and feeling can be an effective way to decrease your anxiety.  Journaling can improve your physical and mental wellbeing and can help you identify the underlying triggers that may increase your PTSD symptoms.

  1. Learn Deep Breathing:
It might sound overly simplistic but breathing matters.  Deep breathing involves using the muscles of the stomach to maximize the amount of oxygen you take into your system.  When you inhale, push out with the stomach muscles and when you exhale contract the stomach muscles.  If done correctly, you will dramatically increase the amount of oxygen you take in with each breath.  This will allow the muscles within your body to relax which will decrease your overall feelings of anxiety and stress. 

  1. Use Distraction to Your Advantage:
Whenever you find yourself worrying about things that cause you anxiety, divert your attention to non-anxiety producing things.  For example, rather than worrying about things that could go wrong in the future, immerse yourself in gardening.  It is amazing how the worries tend to fade when your attention in focused on activities that completely engage you in the moment. 

  1. Use Progressive Relaxation:
An important tool in managing stress and anxiety is Progressive Relaxation.  Progressive Relaxation centers around switching back and forth between tensing the muscles within the body and then relaxing those same muscles.  To begin, try tensing all of the muscles within the body for about 5 seconds and then focus on relaxing those same muscles for about 1 minute.  Complete this process 3 times; each time focusing on relaxing the muscles more than the previous time.  If done correctly, you should notice the tension within your body begin to decrease which will make managing your stress and anxiety easier. 

  1. Use Aromas to Activate the Senses:
Many people find that using fragrances can help diminish their symptoms of PTSD.  Fragrances such as lavender, sage, or peppermint can redirect your thoughts away from the trauma and bring you back into the present.  Accessing the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell can be a powerful tool in quieting the mind and getting you back into the moment. 

  1. Use Art to Express Yourself:
Painting, drawing, music, or other expressive activities can help you express your thoughts and feelings in a healthier way.  Art can allow you to externalize your feelings and can help you express those experiences that you may not initially have the words to describe.

  1. Seek Social Support:
Getting support from others is invaluable when coping with PTSD.  The more you isolate and withdraw, the more you tend to get stuck in your own painful memories or negative thoughts.  Seek out support from others.  It can help you rediscover a sense of normalcy again.  

  1. Get Professional Help:
If PTSD is keeping you from living the life that you want, get professional help.  Find a therapist who is experienced in working with PTSD.  It can help you reclaim your life.

New Dimensions Can Help!
If you are struggling with PTSD, New Dimensions can help.  Our Online Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs are available to anyone who resides within the State of Texas, including El Paso, Dallas, Laredo, Fort Worth, Beaumont, Houston, Corpus Christi, McAllen, Tyler, Austin, College Station, and Lubbock.  We also have onsite services in Houston, Katy, and The Woodlands, Texas.  To learn more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796 or visit our website at

22 December, 2020

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