Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, definitions and treatment options

  • Published
  • By Audra Flanagan
  • 148th Fighter Wing

Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can occur after someone goes through or sees a traumatic event such as combat exposure, sexual or physical abuse, a serious accident, natural disaster or an assault. 

Common symptoms of PTSD can include reliving the event, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, constantly feeling jittery or on edge, or experiencing negative changes in beliefs and feelings about yourself of others. 

In his book The Body Keeps the Score, world-renowned Neuroscientist Bessel van der Kolk says “the fundamental issue in resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional part of the brain.”

148th Fighter Wing Director of Psychological Health, Ariane Norrgard recommends that anyone who is experiencing PTSD symptoms ask for help.  “Early intervention makes it easier on you and the professional you choose to work with,” says Norrgard. 

Norrgard is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) from Cloquet, Minnesota.  Obtaining her independent licensure in clinical social work meant doing 4,000-hours of clinical work under approved clinical supervisors who met with her for 200-hours who coached her on best practices.  In addition to earning a Master’s Degree in Social work form the University of Minnesota, Duluth in the Clinical Scholarship Program, Norrgard was also required to pass the Minnesota Board of Social Work licensure exam.

Norrgard, a former clinician for the Fond du Lac Tribe, was trained in the evidence-based treatment modality of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) by a 24-year U.S. Air Force veteran who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  “I learned the brain and bodies’ response to trauma goes back to child development,” said Norrgard.  Norrgard has worked with children as young as five and adults as old as 95 who’ve experienced trauma. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers trauma-focused psychotherapies which focus on the memory of a traumatic event:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to include:
    • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
    • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Medications called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or counseling, is the most effective treatment for PTSD according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  As such, Norrgard’s next recommendation is to choose a counselor or therapist whom you truly trust and can connect with.  “It won’t matter if a therapist has the perfect tool to treat your symptoms if you don’t trust them or connect with them,” said Norrgard. 

Norrgard’s final recommendation is to be patient with the process of treatment and don’t give up if it becomes uncomfortable.  “Recovering from PTSD takes time, energy, focus, motivation, patience, communication, trust, courage and self-determination.  I believe everyone in the 148th community has those qualities and I am here to help you along the way,” said Norrgard.  

June is PTSD Awareness Month.  If you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of PTSD, you are encouraged to utilize the Director of Psychological Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Military One Source or any other resources available to you to promote your healing journey.

Air National Guard PTSD resources: