PTSD – Symptoms and Therapies

PTSD - Symptoms and Therapies

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can occur in people who have been exposed to one or more traumatic event(s). PTSD is often also referred to as ‘trauma.’

This article will review some of the best PTSD treatments available in Ottawa, Pembroke, North Bay and online, how to find PTSD counselling in Ottawa, and will discuss how neurofeedback therapy for PTSD can help make your recovery faster and less challenging.

What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is a deeply distressing and challenging condition and is still not well understood. Why some individuals develop PTSD after a traumatic event, and others don’t is still unknown, although several theories have been put forth in the medical and research communities. Research has shown that people with PTSD have higher adrenaline levels (stress hormones) and a smaller hippocampus (a part of the brain associated with memory and emotion). PTSD has also been linked with an overactive survival mechanism (the brain trying to remind you of the traumatic experience so you remember not to repeat it).

PTSD can be caused by either direct exposure to trauma (you have been in a life threatening or dangerous situation), or indirect exposure (you have been a witness to a life threatening or dangerous situation). It can result from one traumatic experience, or repeated exposures.

Symptoms of PTSD can be categorized into intrusive symptoms, avoidant symptoms, changes in thinking and mood, and changes in arousal:

Intrusive symptoms:

  • Vivid memories of the event(s)
  • Nightmares about the trauma
  • Re-living the trauma
  • Feeling like the body is reliving the trauma (physical feelings of stress and fear – increased heart rate, sweating, etc.)
  • Stress and strong emotional reactions when reminded of the traumatic event(s)

Avoidant symptoms:

  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma (thoughts, feelings, memories, places, people, objects, smells, sounds, etc.) (This symptom often has a significant impact on daily life, as it can pose a barrier to many daily life activities and interactions.)

Changes in thinking and mood:

  • Difficulty remembering the trauma
  • Decreased interest in daily life
  • Feeling disconnected from friends, loved ones, and previously-enjoyed activities
  • Inability to feel positive emotions
  • Negative beliefs and expectations
  • Persistent negative mood and state
  • Distorted beliefs about the trauma (belief that the trauma was your fault)


  • Feeling that you need to be on guard at all times (hypervigilance)
  • Reckless or self destructive behaviour
  • Easily startled
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability or angry outbursts

      How Can Renew Neurotherapy Aid in PTSD Treatment?

      1. Psychotherapy

      Renew clinicians use a broad range of tools in order to support your recovery. These include cognitive behavioural strategies, dialectical behaviour strategies, distress tolerance, behaviour activation, stress and anxiety management, emotion regulation training, graded exposure therapies, setting boundaries, and more.

      2. Neurofeedback

      At Renew, neurofeedback therapy for PTSD targets the autonomic nervous system.  This is the system that balances the body between “fight or flight” and “rest and digest.”  By helping to regulate the ‘arousal’ level described above (decrease the high chronic stress response), we are able to provide relief from the exhaustion of constant hypervigilance.  When the arousal is decreased, your ability to interact and engage in your daily life and therapy improves, and you are able to move forward in your rehabilitation.  Recovery is hard work, but using neurofeedback as a tool to help your brain and body find a more balanced regulatory state can make the process more accessible.  

      Neurofeedback begins with a brain map that shows your therapist the patterns of brain function that may contribute to your symptoms. Once the patterns are identified, brain training sessions can be completed to help reorganize the brain activity to improve its ability to function more efficiently and flexibly. Once the brain is better able to regulate itself, symptoms are better managed.Although our board certified neurofeedback therapists customize the training to your needs (and everyone needs a slightly different approach), we have found Infraslow Neurofeedback to be one of our most effective approaches for PTSD and anxiety symptoms.

      3. Lifestyle Change and Brain Health Support

      Research tells us that daily strategies such as exercise, good nutrition, healthy work-life balance, spending positive time with loved ones, relaxation time, decreasing screen time, prioritizing and optimizing sleep, and more, have a significant positive impact on mental health.  People who live with PTSD often struggle with daily routine, which impacts all areas of their lives.

      Renew therapists can support you in restructuring your daily routine, setting boundaries, establishing realistic goals and identifying priorities as you shift to a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

      4. Attention, Memory, and Executive Function Support

      Chronic stress has been shown to have a detrimental effect on brain function. People with trauma symptoms experience difficulty with attention, memory, and thinking. They often struggle to organize their thoughts, and feel immobilized by thinking tasks.  Paperwork, for example, can be a significant challenge.

      Renew therapists are experienced in providing cognitive rehabilitation and support. They will assist you in developing strategies and tools that will both support symptoms in the short term, and promote long-term recovery.

      5. Neuromeditation

      Neuromeditation is a style of meditation that takes your brain activity and natural skills into account. By assessing your skills prior to beginning meditation training, you and your therapist are able to identify meditation styles that best match your personality and lifestyle. Clients typically report that learning to meditate is less difficult when applying neuromeditation techniques.


      Our team at Renew Neurotherapy continually strives to provide the best PTSD treatment in Ottawa, Pembroke, North Bay and virtually.  We take advantage of continuing education, stay up to date on research, and collaborate with our clients to blend ‘best practice’ and research findings with a practical and realistic approach to recovery so that you can get back to your life in the most efficient and least distressing way possible.  Recovery from PTSD is a challenge, but with our available therapy tools we are able to work together to support you as you come back stronger.

      If you have questions about how to find PTSD counselling in Ottawa, North Bay, Pembroke or online, please contact us so that we can support you!

      please visit our website at for more information about what Renew Neurotherapy is all about and how we can help you feel better, faster!

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      Chronic Pain – Symptoms and Treatment

      What is Chronic Pain?
      Chronic pain is persistent pain that lasts longer than the typical recovery time or coexists with a chronic illness.
      In chronic pain, the nervous system’s response to pain does not stop once the injury has healed. Instead, the nerves continue to send the pain signal to the brain. The brain also begins to place greater emphasis on the pain feelings as they persist, making it even more difficult to manage the symptoms.Pain can affect any part of your body, disrupts daily living, and can cause anxiety and sadness.

      What are the Symptoms of Chronic Pain?

      Pain is generally constant, with ‘flare ups’ from time to time. Symptoms could include muscle aches and pain, joint pain, fatigue, decreased flexibility, decreased activity tolerance, mood problems (anxiety, depression), burning pain, and more. These symptoms tend to impact your ability to engage in and enjoy daily life over time. This often leads to withdrawal, feelings of isolation, guilt, and activity avoidance. It impacts on relationships and overall quality of life.

      Chronic pain treatments can help you find relief from these problems.

      What Are The Risk Factors for Chronic Pains?

      The risk factors for chronic pain include mood disorders (particularly depression), chronic illness, smoking, obesity, those who are older than 65 years, and females.
      What are the Causes of Chronic Pain?

      The causes of chronic pain are poorly understood and believed to be related to a change in how the brain interprets the pain signal. Some of the conditions that are linked to chronic pain include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, physical trauma or surgery, fibromyalgia, and emotional trauma.

      How Renew Neurotherapy Can Help in Chronic Pain Treatment

      All of the approaches outlined below are geared toward changing the way your brain interprets the pain signal so that we can work together to limit the impact that pain has on your daily life, and promote the quality of life that you want to enjoy.

      At Renew, we often approach chronic pain from a cognitive behavioural therapy perspective.  Here are some of the foundational components of a CBT for pain program

      1. Walking program
      2. Pacing (how to balance tasks, activity and rest)
      3. Relaxation training (managing stress and decreasing muscle tension)
      4. Cognitive restructuring (identify unhelpful thoughts and develop a more balanced thinking pattern)
      5. Behavioural activation (increase participation in activities that hold meaning for you and that you enjoy)

      Lifestyle changes are very important for managing pain symptoms. Fitness, healthy nutrition, spending time with supportive friends, getting high quality sleep, spending time in nature, etc., have all been proven to help manage pain symptoms. At Renew, we help you to develop a lifestyle that supports your pain management while allowing you to fully engage and enjoy your life.

      Sleep therapy approaches may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia, light therapy, sleep hygiene, supporting activity/rest balances, and more. Literature shows us that there is a strong correlation between sleep and pain. Addressing sleep issues can help to manage pain.

      Restructuring how we think about pain is also an important factor. We work with you to manage the impact that pain has on your life instead of focusing on eliminating pain.

      Neurofeedback sessions can also help to support pain management. Pain-related symptoms are often increased by an out-of-balance nervous system. Neurofeedback therapy (particularly Infraslow Neurofeedback therapy) can help to address the balance. Our board certified neuro therapists (BCN) can complete detailed assessments and therapy programs to help support your recovery.


      Chronic pain is a difficult diagnosis to come to terms with, but our team is here to help you learn how to take control of your condition and live a healthy and happy life, despite your pain. If you are suffering from Chronic Pain today and are unsure how to handle it, please visit our website at for more information about what Renew Neurotherapy is all about and how we can help you feel better, faster!

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      Anxiety Disorders – Symptoms and Treatments

      Anxiety is a class of mental health disorders that can have a significant impact on your ability to live an engaged and meaningful life.  When your anxiety symptoms impact how you participate in your daily activities, finding anxiety disorder treatments that are appropriate to your needs can help you improve your quality of life and get back to the activities and relationships that mean the most to you.

      What is Anxiety?

      Anxiety is a natural response to situations or scenarios that are perceived as threatening.  When working properly, anxiety increases to give you the energy and resources to deal with the problem, then decreases back to baseline once the problem or threat is resolved.  This is a healthy and necessary function!  If we never had the push to work harder, run faster, think more, or use more energy, we wouldn’t be able to achieve goals or stay safe!  

      Anxiety becomes a problem, however, when the anxiety doesn’t resolve once the situation is managed.  Sometimes anxiety can become a constant baseline feeling that interferes with your ability to participate in your life.  

      There are several different kinds of anxiety presentations such as panic disorders, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias.  Although each diagnostic group has its own unique symptom grouping, many anxieties present with physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, dizziness, shortness of breath, physical tension, excessive sweating, headache, nausea, fatigue, and even insomnia.  Mentally, people often describe feelings of restlessness, nervousness, difficulty concentrating, thinking and remembering, worrying, impatience and irritability, and more.

      Treatments for Anxiety

      Renew Neurotherapy is a North Bay, Pembroke and Ottawa trauma and anxiety clinic.  Our therapists are skilled in providing support for a variety of mental health disorders, including anxiety counselling (Ottawa, Pembroke, North Bay and online) and trauma therapy (Ottawa, Pembroke, North Bay and online).

      Some of our anxiety counselling (Ottawa, Pembroke, North Bay and online) approaches include:

      Psychotherapy and Counselling

      Psychotherapy and counselling are types of talk therapy that can help you to deal with issues that are blocking or limiting your ability to live a life that you enjoy and has meaning.  They approach recovery in similar ways, but counselling tends to be more short-term and wellness-focussed, while psychotherapy tends to be longer-term and focuses on gaining insight and exploring thought processes in depth.  Most therapists will use components of both approaches, depending on what is the best fit for you and your needs.  

      There are many kinds of therapy approaches.  Some of the approaches we use at the Renew Neurotherapy North Bay, Pembroke and Ottawa trauma and anxiety clinics include emotion-focussed, solution-focussed, cognitive behavioural, dialectical behavioural, acceptance and commitment, EMDR, mindfulness-based, compassion-focussed, and psychodynamic therapies and approaches. 

      The same approach won’t work for everyone.  It’s important to be open and honest with your therapist so that both of you can be sure that the work you are doing together is helping you move forward in your recovery. 


      Neurofeedback therapy is a kind of brain-based biofeedback that can help to modify brain activity patterns associated with your symptoms.  Neuroscience research has taught us that certain parts of the brain and patterns of brain function are linked to specific behaviours.  At Renew, we begin by measuring your brain activity by doing a Quantitative Electroencephalograph (QEEG), or brain map.  Based on that information coupled with years of neuroscience research, we are able to identify key metrics that are associated with your symptoms.  We then use learning-based neurofeedback training to help your brain learn new patterns of functioning.  We know that learning and new behaviours change the neurological connections in your brain, so your brain changes “shape” with the training.  The old anxiety pathways are diverted to new pathways, giving you (and your brain) new options for how to feel and behave. 

      At Renew, all of our team members are trained in accordance with the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance requirements and are either board certified in neurofeedback, or are studying for certification.

      Lifestyle Changes

      Lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on mental health symptoms.  Research has proven that aligning your daily activities with your core values, daily exercise, good nutrition, healthy work-life balance, spending positive time with friends and loved ones, enjoying relaxation time, decreasing screen time, prioritizing and optimizing sleep, spending time in nature, trying new things, and doing activities that are meaningful to you can all be extremely effective in helping you manage symptoms.  

      Renew therapists can support you in identifying and prioritizing your core values, then restructuring your daily routine, setting boundaries, establishing realistic goals and identifying priorities as you shift to a healthier and more balanced life.

      Supporting Return to Work/School Programs

      Anxiety symptoms can often result in withdrawal or the inability to continue to participate in daily activities like work or school.  Once you start to move your recovery forward, you may begin to feel ready to resume some of these activities.  A therapist can help you navigate this process by helping you identify appropriate limits, understand what will increase your symptoms, help you communicate with your employer, teachers, or insurers, help to create a gradual return plan, and help break down the tasks you need to do each day so you can better plan and prioritize your activities. 


      Anxiety can feel like it is running your life; impacting your relationships, your quality of life, even your ability to go to school or make a living, but there are many options to support recovery!

      Renew Neurotherapy is a North Bay, Pembroke and Ottawa trauma and anxiety clinic with experienced and well-trained therapists who can help you live a life that you love.  

      Please reach out and let us know how can we help!

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      HuffPost: 2020 Was Relentless For Parents. In 2021, It’s Time To Put Ourselves First.

      As parents having experienced an unprecedented year of working and parenting, we at Renew Neurotherapy found this article from the Huffington Post “2020 Was Relentless For Parents. In 2021, It’s Time To Put Ourselves First” full of simple strategies to take care of ourselves first.

      “The only two things humans really have control over are our own thoughts and our own choices,” Kate Kripke, a clinical social worker and founder of Colorado’s Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder.

      As we head into 2021, she urges parents to try to slow down and focus inward. Acknowledge that there are huge stressors right now that we simply cannot control. The pandemic is stressful. The trick is for us to find ways to acknowledge that while also asking ourselves, “What are the thoughts and choices I can make that are simple and easy that make it more likely I’m going to start feeling ‘better’?”

      Click here to discover four easy resolutions that you can implement to help you gain back your sense of self and feel better.

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      The COVID-19 pandemic we are currently experiencing has presented a challenge to individuals that, for the most part, few of us have experienced before.   How we bounce back from the challenge will depend on our resiliency.  Resiliency in positive psychology refers to how well equipped are you to handle the challenges the world throws at you. You probably know people that when faced with a challenge, they might get knocked down, but are able to bounce back even stronger than before. People who are resilient have what is called “psychological hardiness” or “capital” or “grit”.

      They are able to work through challenges by using their personal resources and are able to persevere in time.

      Your level of resilience begins with the environment you grew up in and parenting style.  However, don’t let a less than ideal childhood be an obstacle to your ability to becoming more resilient; it’s a learning process, not a personality trait.  Some things to consider when thinking about your own resiliency.


      Strong personal connections provide us with a place we can turn to for help in times of need.  It’s our network of family and friends who we know we can count on, no matter what.  During the pandemic, we are being asked to stay in our homes and avoid get togethers.  You can still maintain connections via social media, phone and talking to your neighbour across the street. Social networking opportunities can be a source of support, and I encourage you to choose your online networks safely and wisely.


      Emotions are an important part of who we are.  They can prompt us to act; they can also tell us to slow down.  Being able to regulate your emotions, as well as your thoughts are paramount to resilience.  In the last blog, I talked about how our thoughts can affect our mood and behaviours. Emotion regulation refers to being able to manage and respond effectively to an emotional experience.

      Just as our thoughts can take us down the rabbit hole, so can our emotions.  The most helpful step to emotion regulation is to pause between the emotion and the response.  This takes practice and begins with awareness. Can you identify the emotion when you are feeling bad? Are you sad? Angry? Happy? Once you have determined what it is you are feeling, you can cognitively look at the situation. What was the trigger for the emotional response? For example, there is a difference between “Things will never get better” to “Things are bad right now”. The first example can lead toward more worry thoughts. The second example acknowledges the situation and does not make a prediction. Remaining focused in the moment, doing what you can do in the moment will go a long way toward managing your emotions.


      Mental agility refers to being able to look at a problem from different angles and be open to other points of view.  It means looking at each situation as if it were entirely new, this way you can avoid making assumptions and falling into the trap of “it’s always been done this way”. This can be a big benefit, especially during times of uncertainty, and when information changes seemingly by the minute.

      Some ways you can increase your mental agility – read more, exercise regularly, learn something new, do puzzles.

      Remember, resilience is something you can learn and improve on.  Like building muscle, it takes time and effort.

      Keep checking our website for resources on mental health and wellness.

      Find out more about the mental health support and psychotherapy treatments offered at Renew Neurotherapy

      DON’T FORGET – During this time, we are still able to offer support via Online Therapy.

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