Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder caused by exposure to a traumatic event such as a violent crime, natural disaster, accident or war. People living with PTSD typically avoid stimuli associated with the event by withdrawing from activities, locations or individuals who may cause recollection of the traumatic experience. This often leads to a significant decrease in interest and participation in activities that were once meaningful to them.
People living with PTSD may relive their traumatic event many times over and become emotionally numb. They may experience severe anxiety, concentration issues, nightmare and insomnia. Younger people diagnosed with PTSD have added challenges associated with managing their symptoms because they may not have developed effective coping strategies.
Occupational therapists who work with individuals diagnosed with PTSD often intervene using a combined therapy approach. For those experiencing intrusive thoughts, exposure therapy could be suitable. Some people who experience irrational thought patterns about their traumatic event may respond well to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on altering behaviours by modifying unrealistic beliefs or negative automatic thoughts about a traumatic experience. Occupational therapy can help reduce or manage severe anxiety symptoms by using relaxation, positive thinking, or deep breathing exercises.
PTSD can have significant impacts on a person's quality of life. People living with PTSD are encouraged to seek support from a medical health professional, such as a qualified occupational therapist. If untreated, PTSD can impact self-care occupations such as grooming and hygiene. Sleep may be affected as the person experiences flashbacks and nightmares. A person's engagement in productivity occupations, such as education or work, could be limited as they attempt to manage their symptoms. Furthermore, roles and routines that were once important to a person's identity can be negatively affected. Occupational therapists work with clients living with PTSD to help maintain or promote engagement in meaningful occupations to improve wellbeing and quality of life.
Refernece: Atchison, Ben, and Diane Dirette PhD. Conditions in Occupational Therapy: Effect on Occupational Performance. 2012.