A-Z List

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)

Goals and Methodologies



What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious psychological reaction that develops in some people following an experience of overwhelmingly frightening or traumatic events.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may develop in some people following a traumatic experience. It can affect people of any age, culture or gender.

It can result from many types of trauma, especially those which threaten life. Such events include, but are not limited to, combat, assault, sexual assault, natural disaster, accidents and torture.

In one form or another, it has been known since ancient times and descriptions of PTSD-like reactions can be found in early Greek and Roman writings. More recently, it has been called other names, such as shell shock, battle fatigue, accident neurosis and rape trauma syndrome. PTSD can affect people of any age, culture or gender.

Most people who experience trauma will have some kind of psychological reaction - this is part of a normal human reaction to overwhelming experiences. Feelings of fear, sadness, guilt, and anger are common. However, most survivors recover in time and only a small proportion will go on to develop the serious, long-term problems that are characteristic of PTSD.

PTSD comprises three groups of symptoms. The first relates to frequent memories of the trauma, which can take the form of repetitive thoughts, images, and dreams. The second group is avoidance symptoms: that is, staying away from reminders, withdrawal from social interaction, and difficulty responding emotionally to others. Finally, PTSD is characterized by heightened arousal, with reduced sleep, increased jumpiness, irritability and anger.

In time, the symptoms of PTSD disappear in most people. In a proportion, however, they can persist. Occasionally, they may appear some time, even years, post-trauma.

With War Veterans: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a response to an experience of overwhelming traumatic events. It is a serious condition that sometimes affects veterans with combat or other military experiences (e.g., peacekeeping). It can affect veterans of any age, culture, or gender.

PTSD comprises 3 groups of symptoms: (1) re-experiencing of trauma, which can take the form of repetitive thoughts, memories and dreams; (2) avoidance of reminders, withdrawal from social interaction, and difficulty responding emotionally to others; and (3) heightened arousal, with reduced sleep, increased jumpiness and anger. PTSD is often associated with other problems such as anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse.

When to Seek Treatment: Not all veterans who develop stress reactions following their military experiences will require treatment. In time, most recover with the help of family and friends. For some, however, stress-related difficulties may persist for many years. This may be because the event was especially severe, or because there were other serious life problems before or after the trauma. In some cases, problems may not appear for several years.

Veterans who continue to have stress-related problems may benefit from some professional help. In such cases, it is important that treatment be obtained at the earliest opportunity.

For a non- war veteran: Not all people who experience trauma require treatment. Most are able to recover with the help of family and friends. However, if the event was especially severe, or the person had other life problems at the time, survivors may need professional help to restore well-being. A range of mental health professional can assist.

Untreated, PTSD can become a chronic disabling disorder, so it is important that effective diagnosis and treatment is obtained at the earliest opportunity.

Problem Areas, Goals, and Methods of Treatment

  • Loss of Recall
  • Loss of Self
  • Loss of Self-esteem
  • Feelings of Survivor Guilt
  • Feelings of Isolation or Aloneness - Withdrawal from Others and Society
  • Feelings of Depression
  • Feelings of Anxiety
  • Feelings of Shame
  • Feelings of Abandonment
  • Feelings of Hypersensitivity
  • Feelings of Anger
  • Feelings of Mistrust
  • Feelings of Confusion
  • Feelings of Sadness
  • Feelings of Abuse
  • Feelings of Victimization
  • Feelings of Loss
  • Feelings of Fear
  • Feelings of Irritability
  • Feelings of Grief
  • Sleeplessness
  • Jumpiness
  • Denial and Avoidance of Issues
  • Resentments
  • Lack of Feelings - Numb
  • Multiple and Mixed Feelings at one time
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse
  • Re-occurring "visions and dreams"
  • Flashbacks
  • Wanton Self Destruction and Death Wish - Suicidal Tendencies
  • Physical problems associated with original trauma
  • Physical tension
  • Emotional stress


  • Improve one's image, self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-acceptance.
  • Validate one's worth and purpose to others.
  • Improve social interaction and social adjustments.
  • Enhance one's positive outlook on life.
  • Increase one's awareness of self and social setting.
  • Decrease one's emotional stress and anxiety level.
  • Validate one's emotional feelings and identify emotion.
  • Decrease one's hyperactivity and restlessness.
  • Improve one's social skills in communications.
  • Increase one's trust in self and others.
  • Channel/redirect emotions via healthy outlets.
  • Develop use of music paired with associations to trigger memories.
  • Develop healthy leisure activities.
  • Develop and use sleep induction tapes.
  • Develop relaxation.
  • Redirect away from vicious cycle of addiction.

Methods of Treatment:

  • Song writing
  • Lyric analysis
  • Creating tapes
  • Music listening
  • Music relaxation
  • Playing wind instruments to develop respiratory status
  • Dance and movement to music
  • Musical games
  • Sign language paired with music

Course of the Disorder

Some symptoms of PTSD can be seen as part of a normal human response to an overwhelming experience. In time, these symptoms disappear in the majority of people. In a proportion of cases, however, they are more severe and may warrant a full diagnosis of PTSD. Without treatment in such cases, the symptoms of PTSD may persist for many years. It is not uncommon for symptoms to vary in their intensity over time. In rare cases, they may not appear for some months, or even years, after the trauma. Where symptoms are severe, or last for a long time, the person should be seen by an experienced mental health clinician.

Associated Problems

Associated Problems

People with PTSD often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, which may resemble those felt during the trauma.

Depression is often an additional problem for people with PTSD. Lowered mood can occur from living with the symptoms of PTSD or the nature of the trauma itself.

It is not uncommon for PTSD sufferers to engage in potentially harmful habits and behaviors to cope with their experiences. Thus, PTSD sufferers may abuse alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to blunt memory and cope with the unpleasant feelings.

Music Therapy Tips

  • Music Therapists are and will be dealing with individuals who have been diagnosed PTSD.
  • Music Therapists should be aware of the physical and psychological dimensions of PTSD.
  • Music Therapists should be aware of types of music that can be "triggering" keys to further emotional upsets with individuals who have PTSD.
  • Music Therapists should be aware of types of music that can be used with different emotional levels of individuals who have PTSD.
  • Music Therapists should be aware of music that may help with physical problems that individuals with PTSD may have as a result of their past experiences
  • Music Therapists should be aware of resources that an individual with PTSD may have to consult.
  • Music Therapists should work with a "team" with individuals diagnosed with PTSD.
  • Music Therapists should have background knowledge of the individual diagnosed with PTSD.

How Can You Help Someone With PTSD?

How Can You Help Someone With PTSD?

  • Offer general support. In traumatized people, support and security offered by loved ones is very important to recovery. Offer to help out with everyday tasks and show them you care.
  • Provide a listening ear for the survivor to talk about what happened. Having the opportunity to discuss, and make sense of, the experience is often crucial in helping people to deal with trauma. Equally, remember that not everyone will be ready to talk about the trauma at the same time.
  • Adopt a helpful and realistic attitude about what the person is capable of: expect neither too much nor too little.
  • Acknowledge and attempt to understand the individuals' reactions to what they have experienced. This may be as simple as recognizing that PTSD can cause the same person to react with extreme anger and numbed feelings at different times.
  • Support the individual to seek further assistance desired. Getting professional help with the symptoms of traumatic stress can sometimes be very important.

What Can You Do If You Are Suffering With PTSD?

Acknowledge the symptoms of PTSD which may be affecting you.

Recognize that PTSD can be difficult to deal with and that recovery does not occur without effort. It is not simply a matter of snapping out of it.

Review your lifestyle for appropriate adjustments; e.g., balance the daily stresses of your life with pleasurable and relaxing activities.

Take up stress reduction methods, such as exercise and relaxation, and pay attention to your physical health, especially sleep and diet.

Recognize, and try to cut down, those things which do not work, particularly the overuse of alcohol, caffeine and prescription medications.

Seek appropriately qualified professional help

Many treatments are available, but most include some of the following components:


Education: about the nature of PTSD and traumatic stress. Learning about PTSD helps to reassure the clients that their symptoms are understood and that they can be helped. It is helpful to improve understanding about common reactions to trauma and provide reassurance that the symptoms, although unpleasant, are probably quite normal. This component would include a discussion of what may be expected in treatment and the steps involved in recovery.


Stress management: to assist the individual in managing the distress that can be so prominent in post-trauma reactions. These strategies may include relaxation techniques, controlled breathing, and strategies to deal with the troublesome memories. The survivor may be encouraged also to resume some kind of normal routine in order to provide structure and security. In this way, the veteran may begin to feel able to cope again with the demands of everyday life. Specific treatment to help the person control their alcohol and drug use may also be required.


Alcohol Rehabilitation: attaining and maintaining sobriety is an important part of recovery. Specialist assistance in this area is available if required.


Dealing with the memories: to enable the survivor to confront their unpleasant experiences . This work requires individuals to work cautiously through the traumatic experience at an individualized pace and to reflect on the meaning of the event. This work can be difficult and distressing, but is important in dealing with the intrusive memories and nightmares. Thus, although survivors cannot change or forget what occurred, they may be able to view it and the world differently. The goal is to be capable of remembering what happened without being overwhelmed by distress. When this occurs, the symptoms of PTSD can be expected to reduce in intensity.


Drug treatment: Several medications have the potential to alleviate symptoms of PTSD. No single medication, however, stands out in the treatment of PTSD. Rather, a range of medications may be used depending on the specific problems of each person. Long term medication (up to a few years) may be required in some cases. It is important that medication be managed by a medical practitioner who has a thorough knowledge of PTSD and its pharmacological treatments.

Treatment may involve other components also. You may wish to talk to your doctor or therapist about what it will involve. Treatment may involve other components also. If you decide to seek treatment, you may wish to talk to your doctor or therapist about what it will involve.

Finally, contact your local VVCS office: they are an excellent source of advice about treatment services and can provide professional counseling and referral.

Additional Information on PTSD

Help should be sought where the individual client:

  • experiences problems which are severe or last for more than a month
  • is constantly on edge or irritable
  • is unable to respond emotionally to others or becomes unusually busy to avoid issues
  • increasingly uses alcohol or other drugs
  • has a strong need to share experiences, but no one is available or able to listen.

PTSD comprises three main groups of problems; they can be categorized under the headings of intrusive, avoidance, and arousal symptoms.

Intrusive Symptoms

Memories and images of the traumatic events may "intrude" into the lives of individuals with PTSD. This can happen in vivid daytime memories and dreams. For people with PTSD, it may seem as though the present has become dominated by the past.

These intrusive memories occur suddenly and without obvious cause. They are often accompanied by intense emotions, such as grief, guilt, fear, or anger. Sometimes they can be so vivid that the individual believes the trauma is re-occurring.

In traumatized children, this reliving of trauma often occurs as repetitive play in which the event is re-enacted. In young children, distressing dreams of the traumatic event may evolve into general nightmares of monsters, or threats to themselves or family members.

Avoidance Symptoms

Traumatic memories are very unpleasant. Thus, traumatized individuals may avoid situations, people, or events which remind them of the event. In extreme cases, the person may become "numb", withdrawing into themselves in an attempt to shut out the painful memories and feelings.

Individuals with PTSD often feel incapable of responding appropriately to others. They may report being unable to feel emotions, even toward those to whom they are closest.

This emotional avoidance and numbing inevitably affects relationships. It may cause the individual to withdraw from family or friends, and makes it difficult for them to engage in a normal life. PTSD can result in severe restriction of emotional contact. Often family members may be rebuffed by a PTSD sufferer who is unable to show appropriate affection and emotion.

Arousal Symptoms

Severe trauma can cause individuals to feel at risk of further traumatization. This sense of vulnerability can leave them feeling "jumpy" and constantly on guard. People with PTSD often report exaggerated startle reactions and extreme watchfulness. Sleep may become difficult and disturbed. They may feel irritable and angry with themselves, others around them, and the world in general.

Individuals with PTSD often report concentration and memory problems. This, along with the other symptoms associated with PTSD, may cause sufferers to develop problems at work and impair relationships with family and friends.


The risk of exposure to trauma in an individual's lifetime is considerable and it is now recognized trauma reactions are far more common than once thought. While most people recover from trauma with the help of caring family members and friends, some will go on to develop more serious problems such as PTSD.

Untreated, PTSD can become a chronic, disabling disorder. Thus, diagnosis and effective treatment should be sought at the earliest opportunity. Without treatment, individuals run the risk of symptoms becoming more chronic in nature, resulting in damage to work performance and relationships.