Journaling to Heal PTSD
By Melissa Camacho
If you are looking for ways to manage or prevent symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), journaling or expressive writing is a therapeutic way to help you cope with your emotions. According to research conducted by James Pennebaker, PhD from the University of Texas, and Joshua Smith, PhD from Syracuse University, journaling to release emotions isn’t effective enough without practicing journaling to explore the story behind the trauma you experience, and learning from your emotions (Murray). PTSD occurs after you experience a traumatic event (Tull). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.8 million people experience PTSD and 3.6 percent of adults 18 and older will be affected by PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Facts and Statistics). Let’s take a look into the role trauma plays on our physical and mental health.
Understanding Causes and Symptoms of PTSD for Journaling Awareness
Trauma dysregulates your brain and nervous system, leading to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD (Scully). PTSD has long-term effects on how your brain functions. Studies indicate that PTSD affects the following major parts of your brain (Greenberg):
- Amygdala, associated with sending “flight-or-fight” response signals to your brain when you feel threatened or feel you are in danger. Once activated, it releases hormones of adrenaline, norepinephrine, and glucose. PTSD affects the amygdala by overproducing norepinephrine, causing problems with sleep.
- Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), works to regulate awareness and emotions in the decision-making process to solve a problem. PTSD causes your PFC to weaken and have impaired reactions to conflicts, dangers, or threats.
How Journaling Reduces Symptoms of PTSD
Do you know journaling or expressive writing is now considered a useful and affordable mental health treatment? Yes, now-a-days, psychotherapists highly recommend journaling to process traumatic events and cope with its mental health symptoms (Tulls). Journaling or expressive writing heals symptoms of trauma and depression, and prevents the development of PTSD. Research studies prove that journaling heals symptoms of PTSD by (Siegel-Acevedo):
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
- Improving sleep and boosts your energy to perform daily activities
- Increasing your ability to focus and clarify your thoughts
Expressive writing minimizes risks of PTSD because it also serves as a creative intervention by allowing you to freely express intense emotions resulting in personal recovery, transformation, and self-empowerment (Hopkins). Further studies have proven the efficacy of different forms of expressive writing. For example, Interapy, a type of online narrative writing where people virtually write and share experiences about traumatic events, has proven to treat and reduce symptoms of PTSD (Sloan, et. al). As you can see, journaling improves your physical and mental health through your validation and self-expression of your emotions. It further prevents symptoms of PTSD and your ability to manage feelings of pain, stress, anxiety, and depression become more manageable.
We offer online journaling, including peer-to-peer journaling at The Love Story to help people cope with grief, pain, and heartbreak by writing about traumatic events. Our journaling program is designed to motivate people to use expressive writing as a therapeutic tool to transform overwhelming emotions into passion, pursuit, and meaning.
Greenberg, Melanie “How PTSD and Trauma affect Your Brain Functioning” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201809/how-ptsd-and-trauma-affect-your-brain-functioning
Hopkins, Sally “Using Creative Expression to Heal Trauma” https://delamere.com/blog/using-creative-expression-to-heal-trauma. Accessed 06 Sept 2022
Murray, Bridget “Writing to Heal” American Psychological Association vol. 33, 6 (2002): 54. https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.html
Scully, Simone “What are the Best Type of Therapies for Trauma” https://psychcentral.com/health/best-types-of-therapy-for-trauma
“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Facts and Statistics” Vertavahealth. https://vertavahealth.com/mental-health/ptsd/facts/. Accessed 30 Aug 2022
Siegel-Acevedo, “Writing Can Help Heal Is from Trauma” 07 Jul 2021 https://hbr.org/2021/07/writing-can-help-us-heal-from-trauma
Sloan, Denise M et al. “Efficacy of Narrative Writing as an Intervention for PTSD: Does the Evidence Support Its Use?.” Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy vol. 45,4 (2015): 215-225. doi:10.1007/s10879-014-9292-x
Tull, Matthew “Symptoms and Diagnosis of PTSD” 20 Apr 2021 https://www.verywellmind.com/requirements-for-ptsd-diagnosis-2797637