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PTSD and New Year Resolutions

Making Positive Changes in the New Year

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Updated May 16, 2010

PTSD and New Year resolutions might seem like a strange combination, but the New Year is a time when people often commit to making positive changes in their lives. This may be particularly important for the person with PTSD, especially given that it is often associated with a number of unhealthy behaviors. If you have PTSD, you may want to consider the following possible New Year resolutions.

  • Work on Improving Your Health
    People with PTSD have been found to be at greater risk for a number of physical health problems, such as heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes, and obesity. Therefore, it can be important for the person with PTSD to take steps to improve their physical health, such as through exercise or a healthy diet.

  • Get Active
    People with PTSD often suffer from depression. As a result of this depression, they may become more withdrawn and inactive. This may prevent them from coming into contact with positive and rewarding aspects of their lives, potentially making the depression linger longer than it has to. Being active is a great way to combat depression. People with PTSD may benefit greatly from scheduling positive activities in their daily schedules. Behavioral activation is one way this can be accomplished.

  • Stop Smoking
    Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disability in the United States. It has been estimated that approximately 21% of adults in the United States (about 45 million people) currently smoke, and studies have found that, on average, approximately 45% of individuals with a current diagnosis of PTSD currently smoke. Given this, an important resolution for the person with PTSD may be attempting to quit smoking. While there are no established, specialized treatments for smoking in PTSD, some are in development. However, individuals with PTSD may still benefit from more standard methods of quitting smoking.

  • Find New Ways of Coping with Stress
    People with PTSD are at risk for a number of other mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and substance use. High levels of stress among people with PTSD may be a major contributing factor to this heightened risk. In addition, these high levels of stress among people with PTSD may lead them to use unhealthy coping strategies, such as the use of alcohol or drugs. Learning healthy ways of managing stress, such as deep breathing or mindfulness, may help reduce stress levels among people with PTSD.

  • Improve Your Relationships
    Study after study has shown that social support and positive relationships can have a tremendous positive impact on someone’s PTSD symptoms. In fact, it has been found that social support may actually “protect” someone from developing PTSD following the experience of a traumatic event. This suggests that it may important for the person with PTSD to establish and foster positive relationships with others in the New Year. This can be done through support groups or simply looking to loved ones in your family.

  • Learn More About PTSD
    A PTSD diagnosis can be very disruptive to a person’s life. The symptoms of PTSD can negatively impact one’s psychological health, physical health, and interpersonal relationships. However, the more you know about PTSD and its course, the better able you will be to address your PTSD symptoms and recognize when they are getting worse. Learn all you can about the diagnosis, such as its symptoms, related conditions, and how it can be treated.

  • Get Treatment
    Finally, if you have PTSD, one the most important things you can do is get treatment as soon as possible. PTSD can be treated, and many effective treatments are available for people with PTSD. You can start by finding a therapist in your area who treats PTSD at the website for the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.

If you have PTSD, use the New Year to make some positive changes in your life. Of course, start off slow. You don’t want your New Year’s commitments to become overwhelming and a source of stress. Remember that even a small change in your life can have a large positive impact.

Sources:

Agaibi, C.E., & Wilson, J.P. (2005). Trauma, PTSD, and resilience: A review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 6, 195-216.

American Cancer Society (2007). Cancer facts and figures – 2007: American Cancer Society.

Feldner, M.T., Babson, K.A., & Zvolensky, M.J. (2007). Smoking, traumatic event exposure, and post-traumatic stress: A critical review of the empirical literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 14-45.

Green, B.L., & Kimerling, R. (2004). Trauma, PTSD, and health status. In P.P. Schurr & B.L. Green (Eds.), Physical health consequences of exposure to extreme stress (pp. 13-42). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Keane, T.M., & Barlow, D.H. (2002). Posttraumatic stress disorder. In D.H. Barlow (Ed.), Anxiety and its disorders, 2nd edition (pp. 418-453). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Resick, P.A., & Calhoun, K.S. (2001). Posttraumatic stress disorder. In D.H. Barlow (Ed.), Clinical handbook of psychological disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual, 3rd edition (pp. 60-113). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Schnurr, P.P., & Green, B.L. (2004). Understanding relationships among trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and health outcomes. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 20, 18-29.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2004). The health consequences of smoking: A report of the Surgeon General. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease and Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

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