Prolonged Exposure for PTSD

Common Reactions to Trauma

  • Fear and anxiety (may be triggered by certain places, times of day, certain smells or noises, or any situation that reminds you of the trauma)

  • Re-experiencing the trauma (flashbacks, nightmares, unwanted thoughts...)

  • Increased arousal (feeling jumpy, jittery, shaky, being easily startled, having trouble concentrating or sleeping, easily irritated)

  • Avoidance (Avoid situations, places, time of day, push away painful thoughts and feelings)

  • Anger (increase in irritability and anger)

  • Guilt and Shame feelings (they may blame themselves or the trauma or what they did during the trauma)

  • Grief and Depression (feeling down, sad, hopeless, or despairing, crying more frequently, loss of interest in people or activities)

  • Self-image and views of the world (become more negative after trauma, find it hard to trust others or yourself)

  • Sexual relationships (difficulty in feeling sexual or having sexual relationships)

  • Increase in Alcohol or Drug use (more than responsible alcohol use and can slow down your recovery and may cause additional problems)

Prolonged Exposure for PTSD

As a trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral treatment, Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) gradually teaches you how to approach the memories, feelings, people, places, and situations that you have been avoiding since your trauma, allowing for a decrease in PTSD symptoms and recovery. People with PTSD often attempt to avoid reminders of their trauma, which can help you feel better in the short run, however this avoidance actually keeps people form recovering from PTSD.

PE is effective at treating PTSD for veterans and civilians

PE works well for a variety of traumas, including combat trauma, sexual assault, and domestic violence

PE is a short-term treatment with approximately 8 to 15 weekly, 90-minute sessions with your therapist, and includes out-of-session practice assignment

Incorporating breathing techniques to help manage anxiety Engaging in safe situations that you have been avoiding, in a gradual and step-by-step manner

Talking about the details of your trauma in therapy, to allow for emotional processing and a decrease in anxiety related to the memory