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Support Groups for PTSD: How do they work?

The human brain is all about survival.

Whether you're relaxing on the couch watching your favorite show or running away from an actual bear, your brain's number one priority at all times is to keep you alive.

When you're at rest, your brain is still at work, commanding all the subtle processes your body needs to do constantly in order to survive - like breathing and your heart's beat.

When you're in active danger, your brain is working to optimize performance and maximize your chances of survival: Adrenaline courses through your veins, and your mind sharpens.

Because the brain is such a finely tuned precision tool, however, there are slim tolerances or margins of error that, when breached, can lead to mental health concerns and conditions.

One such concern is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Related to the "fight-or-flight" response, PTSD is the brain taking its ultimate goal of survival a little too far.

Luckily, PTSD is fairly treatable in many cases. One of the best and most effective ways to treat PTSD is with group therapy.

Key Takeaways:

  • PTSD is a complicated condition that manifests uniquely in every case.
  • Some of the most common symptoms include panic attacks, flashbacks, and anxiety.
  • Support groups and group therapy can be very effective for treating and reducing symptoms and building support.

PTSD Support Group Resources on This Page:

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Why group therapy for PTSD instead of individual therapy?

PTSD Support Groups: What To Expect

PTSD Therapy in Brooklyn: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when the brain has difficulty turning off its fight-or-flight response.

When you undergo something traumatic, your brain activates all sorts of hormones and neurotransmitters in an attempt to sharpen your reflexes and prime your body for a fight. While this process is very effective for avoiding and fighting off predators, it's really only supposed to last for a few minutes. Being in fight-or-flight mode is immensely taxing on the brain and body.

That's why, after danger has passed and the response has worn off, you feel immeasurably fatigued: Your body has to recover from going berserk. It kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down and brings your hormones back to normal levels.

In some cases of very severe trauma, however, the brain can be so affected by a dangerous situation that it has a very hard time actually stopping the fight-or-flight response. This is the process behind post-traumatic stress disorder.

Do I have PTSD?

PTSD presents differently from person to person, but if you exhibit any or all of the following symptoms, you may have PTSD:

  • Feeling empty or depressed
  • Serious anxiety
  • Refusing to think or talk about a traumatic event
  • Flashbacks to traumatic events and memories
  • Panic attacks
  • Poor self-esteem; self-blaming
  • Startling easily
  • Insomnia
  • New phobias

This is not a fully inclusive list; there are other symptoms of PTSD, some of which may be unique to your particular case. In a similar vein, experiencing one or more of the above symptoms does not necessarily mean you have PTSD. Other mental health concerns could be at-hand, which should also be addressed by a mental health professional.

Definition Template (18)

Why group therapy for PTSD instead of individual therapy?

Trauma is a complicated psychological mechanism. There are many facets in how it changes and impacts the people who experience it.

Some people undergo traumatic events and, after some time, experience little in the way of lasting effects.

Others experience what might be considered "mild" trauma by some, and live with PTSD for the rest of their lives.

There is no set of rules defining exactly how and why PTSD arises. Because of this, no one experience with PTSD is exactly the same.

However, while PTSD is unique to each sufferer, there is one thing that all with PTSD have in common: trauma.

And because humans are social animals, talking about trauma in a group of those who have experienced it can often be more productive than speaking about one's trauma alone with a therapist (though, we should note, for many people, one-on-one therapy is actually better than a support group).

PTSD Support Groups: What To Expect

Like most kinds of support groups, your exact experience with your PTSD support group will be intrinsically unique.

There are some characteristics of a PTSD support group that are fairly standard - for example, almost all groups will have between 5 and 15 people, and all will (or should) be guided by a licensed therapist or psychologist.

But when it comes to the actual content of the group discussion, there will, of course, be no way to know beforehand exactly what it will contain. Since everyone's trauma is unique, your group will be comprised of people who are uniquely traumatized and who, therefore, will have unique stories to tell and observations to bring up.

Overall, however, you can expect to sit with a group of people who have also undergone trauma and listen to and, when you're ready, share stories about trauma and how it affects the mind.

Your therapist is there to guide the conversation to ensure it stays safe, civil, and productive for the members of the group. Your therapist may also offer advice and therapeutic guidance, as well as teach coping strategies.

PTSD Therapy in Brooklyn: Williamsburg Therapy Group

If you think you may have PTSD, your first step should be to talk with a therapist one-on-one. Only a licensed mental health professional will be able to determine if you can be diagnosed with PTSD or if some other mental health concern may be behind your distress.

When you trust Williamsburg Therapy Group with your mental healthcare, you're trusting the most experienced doctoral-level therapists available. Visit our professionally designed premium therapeutic space, or visit with our expert providers from the comfort of your own home with telehealth.

Give us a call, and our patient coordinator will match you with the right Brooklyn group therapy session for you, free of charge. Feeling better may be closer than you think.

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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