Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder directly caused by and fixated on an extremely traumatic past event. This can include flashbacks, nightmares, and all the accompanying physical symptoms of anxiety. Such an event has to be processed in a particular way. Many people are able to do this with the help of friends and family. Some people, however, often develop problems, often weeks or months later, with severely negative impacts, both psychological and physical.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can usually only be treated with professional help. At Schoen Clinic, we are specialised in mental health disorders. Our physicians tactfully assist you in regaining lost trust.

What is trauma?

In principle, a differentiation is made between human-caused trauma and catastrophe and accident-related trauma. Trauma is also classified based on its duration. Short-term trauma is characterised by an acute threat to life and the sudden occurrence of the event. Long-term trauma develops as a result of various individual events that are difficult to predict. Human-caused trauma includes sexual and physical abuse, criminal and familial violence or war-related experiences. Natural catastrophes and accidents include, among other things, earthquakes, floods, and fires.

PTSD is a long-term condition of heightened stress and anxiety in response to a traumatic event, usually where one fears for their life. To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must persist for at least three months. Prior to this point, it is Acute Stress Disorder, which shows all the same symptoms as PTSD but only lasts less than three months.

PSTD symptoms: Physical

  • Sweating 
  • Nausea 
  • Trembling or shaking 
  • Dizziness 
  • Chest pain 
  • Stomach aches 
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbance or insomnia

PSTD symptoms: Psychological

  • Flashbacks to the event Nightmares (usually related to the event) 
  • Other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, phobia Intrusive thoughts or images 
  • High distress at reminders of the trauma 
  • Getting upset or angry easily 
  • High alertness 
  • Easily startled Irritability 
  • Feeling reckless 
  • Feeling emotionally numb 
  • Feeling somewhat detached from your body Untrusting 
  • Feeling unsafe 
  • Guilt or shame

PSTD symptoms: Behavioural

  • Anger outbursts 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Drug and/or alcohol misuse 
  • Avoidance of any reminder of the trauma

Causes: How does a PTSD develop?

The primary cause of PTSD is the experience of an extremely traumatic event. A few examples are:
  • War or extreme violence
  • Terrorist attack
  • Torture
  • Abuse
  • Transport accident
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Natural disaster
  • Traumatic childbirth experience
  • Any event in which you fear for your life
Approximately one in three people who have been in these situations or similar will develop PTSD. There are other factors that can increase your likelihood of developing PTSD in response to trauma:
  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Previous or current experience of depression or anxiety
  • Loneliness or lack of contact with friends or family

Diagnosis: Great sensitivity is required here

The affected person’s ability to trust has often been shaken by the trauma and they find it difficult to trust other people. They believe no one can understand how they feel. Many are also afraid that by talking about the event, painful memories will arise and, as a result, may become even more stressful.
Our therapists at Schoen Clinic therefore place great value on having the diagnostic interview in a safe, respectful environment without interruptions. We will tactfully feel our way toward the cause of the post-traumatic stress disoder and discuss the further course of treatment with the patient.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: therapy – customised and multi-modal

A multi-modal approach has proven successful with respect to taking the various biological, psychological and social aspects of PTSD into account. We apply a variety of therapeutic techniques, taking your individual circumstances into account.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: Treatment in several phases

PTSD treatment consists of three phases: stabilisation, confrontation and integration.

During the initial phase, the primary focus is on building a trusting and stable relationship between you and your therapist. You will learn to understand your reactions to what happened, how to regain a sense of security and the ability to trust and develop disassociation strategies. In addition, you will practice how to break down self-destructive behaviours and reduce tension. Imagination methods and creative therapies such as art or music therapy have proven successful with respect to disassociation.

Once you have been adequately stabilised, the next step is confrontation techniques. You and your therapists will develop situations that can be easily controlled and supported and supervised by the therapist. The objective is to understand the threat as something that happened in the past and integrate the trauma into your biography.

In the final step, you will learn to accept the trauma and its consequences. This is intended to prevent further disorders, mobilise social support and promote social and professional reintegration.

Therapeutic breaks can be scheduled between the individual treatment phases and trauma confrontation is not always sensible in every case.

Supplemental treatments

In addition to psychotherapeutic methods, at Schoen Clinic, we also offer you supplemental treatments such as relaxation techniques, as well as enjoyment and self-confidence training. The use of body-oriented methods has also proven successful. Creative therapies, such as art or music therapy, can make it easier for you to access and process visual memories.

Trauma group

In the trauma group, we encourage you to overcome your helplessness and psychosomatic symptoms as well as change limitations in your everyday life. With the help of psychotherapists and the other patients, you will learn to talk about your current stress. Be done with remaining silent and feeling isolated. Here, you will learn options for coping with stressful feelings and tension differently than you have to date. This will help you understand yourself and accept what you have experienced.

However, you do not deal with traumatic experiences in-depth in the group; this takes place in one-on-one therapy.

Resource groups

In the group, together with your therapist, you will develop strategies for controlling yourself and regulating your emotions with respect to handling the symptoms of PTSD. The objective is to achieve enough stability to allow you to control your symptoms and prevent them from getting more severe. In addition to behavioural therapeutic methods, forms of relaxation, the imagination and stress management are applied.

Art therapy

This secondary therapy offers you a way to express yourself when you don’t have the words. The focus is on your own active actions, recognising and implementing your own needs and practising self-care behaviour. You will work with a variety of materials in a group of a maximum of 8 participants and have discussions.

Psychotropic medications

If your symptoms are particularly severe, we can support the therapeutic process by administering medication. If the patient suffers from severe states of tension or agitation or stubborn sleep disorders, it may be helpful to use medications to combat symptoms of psychosis (anti-psychotics).

Post-traumatic stress disorder: our specialists

Post-traumatic stress disorder: our specialised clinics