If you are thinking about suicide
Please read this first.
If you could use some support right now
If you are in crisis, including if you are thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (It’s OK to call the Lifeline if you’re not thinking about suicide, too.)
Someone is available to talk with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1-800-273-8255
You can chat via text 24/7 with a trained volunteer or crisis center staff person at the Crisis Text Line. Text START to 741-741 or visit their site for more information. This service is available in the United States. It’s also possible to reach a volunteer through Facebook Messenger; check their FAQ.
Chat online with a volunteer trained in crisis intervention at any time at I’mAlive.
Connect with an online listener or therapist, or join a supportive community, at any time at 7Cups.
If you think you might have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused, there are many helpful resources at RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), including the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE, links to counseling centers, suggestions for how to help a friend who might have been raped, and international resources.
If you are a veteran, you might call the Veterans’ Crisis Line, operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Someone is available to talk with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Your call is confidential. 1-800-273-8255, option 1
The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender individuals who are there to support you if you are in crisis, or just need someone to talk to, and you are transgender or you are struggling with your gender identity. In the U.S.: In Canada: 877-330-6366
More Reading about Trauma and PTSD
Many websites and books cover the basics about PTSD. You can find the basic definition and lists of symptoms on Wikipedia.
HelpGuide.org has an excellent and thorough page about trauma, including several grounding exercises for when you are in distress, tips for loved ones, and suggestions about treatment.
More and more people (especially those who work with kids) are talking about childhood trauma with reference to ACEs: Adverse Childhood Experiences. You can learn more ACEs (including counting up your own) and about the movement toward trauma-sensitive education at the blog ACEs Too High.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
The PTSD Forum has hundreds of users, thousands of posts, and real time chat. Find a community of people who have been through what you are going through, whether you are a sufferer or a supporter of someone with PTSD.
The Reddit PTSD subreddit is very active, with thousands of users and a deep archive.
CrazyBoards has a place for everyone, whatever your diagnosis, or no diagnosis at all. There are sections for conditions, for treatments, and for general discussion.
Gift From Within, a nonprofit organization, has a site with many articles, blog posts, lists of retreat sites and conferences, links to support groups, and much more.
The Center for Motivation and Change has good information about the Community Reinforcement and Family Training model and other strategies for being supportive of a person who has addiction issues.
Secondary PTSD is a real thing. If someone close to you suffers from PTSD, you are at risk yourself. Here is an article by Mac McClelland in Mother Jones about some of the families of Iraq war veterans and their experience of secondary PTSD.
Grounding Techniques and Other Resources
When your system is knocked out of equilibrium, either into a more anxious state or into numbness, grounding can help you get back to a calmer and more connected state. Find a few techniques you like and practice them when you aren’t upset or numb. You may be less likely to think of doing it when you’re upset, so consider keeping a slip of paper in your wallet or your pocket with the list of grounding exercises you’ve practiced.
Grounding techniques list at Healthyplace.com.
Grounding techniques collected by cetcetera.
Grounding techniques list at Pickthebrain.com.
The iChill app, available for both iPhone and Android phones, also can help with grounding exercises.
What about feeling a little bit better in general? This useful summary from Eric at Barking Up the Wrong Tree explains how neuroscience supports the regular practices of gratitude, labeling emotions, making good enough decisions and physical touch for relieving stress and improving mood.
For more suggestions, the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Boston has many useful resources, including a DVD guide to trauma-informed yoga and other informative videos for sufferers and those who are close to them. You can find those resources here.
Is Therapy For You?
You may be able to manage your symptoms, or put yourself in a low-stress environment where you are less likely to be affected by having PTSD. Maybe the people around you accommodate your needs. Maybe you have isolated yourself. You can live out your entire life without addressing post-traumatic symptoms. Many people have.
Therapy is risky. If you work with a practitioner who is not using the methodologies that are most effective for trauma, or who is using them without adequate regard for your safety, it can be harmful or dangerous. Depending on where you are in the world, it may be expensive and not covered by insurance. When you work with a practitioner you trust, who is knowledgeable and experienced and who has your best interests in mind, you still may feel worse before you feel better.
There is a stigma about having mental health issues. You may already feel worthless (because that is one of the symptoms of PTSD). You may also feel ashamed, or guilty. People around you may not understand your situation and may say and do things that make you feel worse.
If you are a man, everything around you tells you to handle this on your own. Here’s Andy Behrman on his experience getting help (with bipolar, not PTSD, but it’s definitely applicable to men with PTSD).
If you are a person of color or LGBTQ, you might find this essay by CarmenLeah Ascencio about why you might want to seek therapy useful and interesting.
Whoever you are, however long you have lived with past trauma, despite all the possible down sides, therapy is one of the most effective ways to heal from trauma.
Please consider therapy.
Finding a Therapist
If you are a trauma survivor, or think you may be, it is a good idea to find a therapist who has experience with trauma and PTSD. Trauma is not well understood by many in the medical and helping professions and while there are specific approaches that can be very helpful in healing PTSD, there are many, many therapeutic methods. The two most important factors in healing are finding a practitioner with whom you can establish a level of trust, and that practitioner using the techniques that will actually help.
Martha Ainsworth at Metanoia has written a useful general guide to choosing a competent counselor with whom you feel comfortable.
Captain Awkward’s friend the Mental Health Mountie has a useful list for finding low-cost therapy if you live in the United States or Canada.
CarmenLeah Ascencio also has good tips for finding a therapist if you are a person of color or not the typical therapy client for any other reason.
And here are some thoughts on whether you might want a therapist who has a background similar to you, or not, from Rose Hackman at The Guardian.
HelpPRO maintains a general database of therapists in the United States. You can search for therapists who specialize in Trauma/PTSD or on a variety of other issues. Please note that not all therapists who treat survivors of trauma use the methods preferred by the creator of this site.
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies maintains an international database of therapists.
You can find an EMDR-certified therapist through the EMDR Institute, which trains clinicians.
The EMDR International Institute maintains a database of certified EMDR therapists. You can also find recent research articles and other information at their site.
You can find a practitioner who is certified in Somatic Experiencing through the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. The Institute also trains clinicians.
The Sensorimotor Institute maintains a referral list of therapists certified in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.
The Center for Self Leadership has a list of practitioners who have trained in the Internal Family Systems Model of Psychotherapy.
The Pesso Boyden Psychomotor System is also known as the structures approach. You can find an international list of practitioners through the Pesso Boyden site.
Neurofeedback clinics are easy to find with a general web search. You will generally need to commit to a minimum number of sessions.
If you are a military veteran in the United States, Homecoming for Veterans maintains a list of neurofeedback clinics that provide no-cost services to veterans. Be sure to verify the availability of no-cost services with any clinic you contact about appointments.
Information and Research About Effective Therapies
David Baldwin maintains the Trauma Information Pages, an extensive website primarily oriented to clinicians and researchers that includes links to many articles and other useful sites (some of those are linked here).
The PILOTS database (Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress) is a searchable database of trauma literature. The goal is to capture ALL publications, around the world. You don’t need to register or have a password, and there is no charge to use it. The database is sponsored by the National Center for PTSD at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
More resources for practitioners are at the websites of the various international professional associations, including the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. The websites of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation include information for the public; the latter has some materials in Spanish.
You can find an extensive and annotated list of research studies related to EMDR at the EMDR Institute website.
You can also find an extensive listing of research articles on EMDR at the Francine Shapiro Library at Northern Kentucky University. There are links to many articles where you can access abstracts or full text.
The EMDR Network’s site includes research reference lists tailored to psychiatrists and physicians, marriage, family and child therapists, and those working with military-related trauma survivors and survivors of disasters.
There are a few references regarding the effectiveness of neurofeedback for PTSD at EEGinfo.com.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has many resources and links related to working with young people in a wide variety of settings and circumstances.
Bessel van der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score includes many, many references, including brain imaging studies and studies of the effectiveness of various therapies. Among them is this study that he and his colleagues conducted on how yoga can reduce post-traumatic symptoms.