Working with animals acts as a form of therapy for those suffering with PTSD. It reduces stress and anxiety, as well as feelings of isolation.
For many soldiers, both veterans and active military alike, one of the sad realities upon returning home from deployment is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Our military members are often exposed to traumatizing events. It’s common for a soldier’s life to be threatened in combat, to experience the loss of a friend, and sometimes, even endure painful torture.
Many military service members are able to ease back into civilian society with a bit of time, but occasionally the effects of trauma express themselves for months and even years later, requiring the help of PTSD therapy.
According to a study completed by the Congressional Research Service, between the years 2007 and 2017, more than 17,000 service members were affected with PTSD annually. Luckily, numbers are decreasing, but it’s important to know the signs and how to help.
Symptoms of PTSD include: reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks and nightmares, depression and avoidance of family, friends, and previous interests, and increased arousal taking form in sleeplessness, jumpiness, and irritability.
Typically, treatment for PTSD includes cognitive behavioral therapy by attending sessions with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, usually leading to medication.
While it’s been proven that these traditional methods do help with PTSD symptoms, incorporating natural solutions has also shown improvements.
Here we’ll share a few ways you can effectively treat PTSD naturally.
1. Meditation and Yoga
Yoga is a physical form of meditation.
Transcendental meditation takes the practitioner away from their noisy thoughts and closer to inner quietness, in turn reducing stress hormones that affect both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, calming the fight or flight response.
According to Psychology Today, reporting on a study from Military Medicine of 74 active duty military personnel suffering from PTSD, half the participants practiced transcendental meditation alongside their current therapy regimens.
Of the meditators, 83.7% stabilized, reduced, or stopped their use of medication as opposed to 59.4% of the non-meditators.
Yoga is a physical form of meditation that can also be used as PTSD therapy.
By focusing on the breath while practicing strengthening poses, it’s a welcome respite for both mind and body. In the same way that transcendental meditation allows access to inner quietness, yoga offers the opportunity to focus on the here and now, with studies showing improvements in mental health and quality of life for military personnel dealing with combat-related PTSD.
For military service members with PTSD, practicing meditation and yoga has been incredibly beneficial by giving them the tools to tap into that calm state, allowing the triggers associated with their trauma to subside.
2. Working with Animals
For military service members and veterans, the treatment plan for PTSD can be drawn out and lonely, many feeling like no one truly understands the realities of war quite like their fellow soldiers.
Upon returning to civilian life, these feelings of isolation are intensified, even when working toward a solution. It’s for this reason it seems that treatment of PTSD with the help of animals has proven to be so beneficial.
Anyone who’s ever owned a pet knows how deep the connections can be. PTSD treatment with horses, dogs, cats, birds, and even dolphins have shown positive impact.
Interacting with animals reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and promotes exercises, even for those without PTSD.
Animals demand attention, are non-judgmental, and often react to the emotional state of those around them. For soldiers dealing with PTSD, caring for an animal is a welcome distraction from the trauma and they’re less likely to feel misunderstood in the presence of an animal.
It’s especially important in PTSD treatment with horses that the rider is relaxed.
Not only do horses react to people’s moods, they actually reflect them. Helpful for soldiers with PTSD in conjunction with their clinical treatments, horses highlight how their emotional state impacts others, usually encouraging them to take control of their trauma.
3. Massage Therapy
Another holistic treatment linked to improvements in PTSD symptoms, massage therapy has been incorporated into clinical treatments with fantastic results.
In an article reported by Massage Today, positive changes in biochemistry after massage therapy include reducing cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) while increasing dopamine and serotonin (neurotransmitters associated with pleasure), helping those suffering from PTSD reduce their feelings of arousal and easing their anxiety.
Since these solutions are incredibly difficult to quantify, if you treat PTSD naturally, it should always be used in addition to the clinical practices recommended by a doctor.
PTSD is a painful struggle, affecting entire families and communities but by including these natural treatments, relief may not be far off.