Written by Lori Jo Vest
Fact checked by The Brain Blog Team
According to the American Psychological Association, “cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” People develop PTSD after “experiencing a variety of traumatic events including child abuse, combat, rape and natural disasters.” PTSD currently affects 3.6% of the adults in the United States, approximately nine million people. Military veterans are particularly vulnerable after experiencing combat.
IThe American Psychiatry Association says that people who are suffering from PTSD “have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people. People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with PTSD may experience:
Research has shown that PTSD can contribute to oxidative stress and elevate the levels of proinflammatory cells in the brain, causing damage to brain tissue. Oxidative stress happens in the brain when molecules known as “free radicals” damage the cells and contribute to premature cell aging. The National Institutes of Health reports, “The brain, with its high oxygen consumption and lipid-rich content, is highly susceptible to oxidative stress.”
This damage to the cells in your brain can wreak havoc on your cognitive ability and contribute to your risks for dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. So how do you fight against the brain health risk factors that come with PTSD?
CPT is strongly recommended for the treatment of PTSD. In one research study, rates of participants who no longer met PTSD diagnosis criteria after completing CPT ranged from 30% to 97%, with 51% more participants treated with CPT achieving loss of PTSD diagnosis, compared to the control groups.
Cognitive Processing Therapy is delivered over twelve sessions, teaching patients how to challenge and modify any unhelpful trauma-related beliefs. The patient creates a different understanding and new beliefs about the traumatic event, reducing the ongoing negative effects on the patient’s current life.
If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, ask your healthcare provider if Cognitive Processing Therapy is an appropriate option to help you reduce the trauma-related stress and other symptoms. Many experts, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, recommend this evidence-based style of cognitive therapy as a frontline method for PTSD recovery.
After a PTSD diagnosis, besides seeking help from a medical professional, it’s important to support your brain health as you work through your recovery.
Consider lifestyle choices that protect your brain, like eating a healthy diet, getting enough cardiovascular exercise, and taking a brian health supplement.
A healthy diet is your first line of defense against brain inflammation and oxidative stress. Antioxidants are an antidote to inflammation and oxidative stress and they appear naturally in fruits and vegetables like cherries, dark leafy greens, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes, and in fish, nuts, turmeric, green tea, onion, garlic and cinnamon.
Moderate cardiovascular exercise has been proven to reduce oxidative stress. In one study, “exercise training induced a significant decrease in oxidative damage.”
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