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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Get in touch with us today so we can discuss how we can help you.

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