Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and PTSD:  Uncovering Inaccurate Memories

Are you someone who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? The trauma associated with the condition can leave you with lots of memories. Some of these memories may  not be entirely accurate. That is why using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and PTSD can help identify these inaccuracies and help you heal from past trauma completely.
What are Inaccurate and False Memories?
Memories of any event in a human life are prone to inaccuracies. Over time, details fade and what seemed clear becomes grey. Multiple people who witness a traumatic event, such as an accident, will each have their own memory of the event. Details can be lost or mixed up. People may even have amnesia, completely forgetting certain things or events. This is a way that the brain protects us from traumatic memories that cause distress.

Sometimes those who have experienced trauma will have a false memory. That is, they believe something happened that actually didn’t.
How Do False Memories Happen?
People who have been through trauma may develop false memories without even realizing it.  Sometimes these memories are implanted during guided imagery. One study found that it was possible to implant a false childhood memory in college students. These memories can occur in adults as a way to understand events that happened in childhood.
The Burden of Inaccurate Memories
Sometimes people experience inaccurate memories. Those inaccuracies can become a major burden on their lives. People who have experienced trauma are more likely to use drugs or alcohol to cope. They are also more likely to have depression.  It is important to note, however, that cognitive behavioral therapy can help people with PTSD uncover these problems and clear up inaccurate memories.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a tool in which you talk with a therapist or other mental health professional trained in the technique. Talking with a therapist allows you to verbalize what you are feeling, make sense of what you experienced, and resolve past trauma. Talk-therapy can be combined with other strategies or methods such as exposure therapy or EMDR for effective treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and PTSD

When working with a therapist who utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy you can:

  • Talk about the trauma you experienced.
  • Review the sequence of events that occurred.
  • Discuss how that trauma affected you (physically, emotionally, etc.).
  • Express the feelings that come up when you recall these memories.

Together, you and your therapist can work to tell your brain that the danger is over. It no longer needs to be on high alert or prepared to defend itself against a new trauma. This can mean that you don’t have to endure symptoms of PTSD, such as anxiety.
How Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help with Inaccurate Memories?
The same process that allows you to resolve trauma can help you to better understand which memories are accurate, and which are not. The Veterans Administration notes that CBT is the most effective treatment for people with PTSD. This is because talking about your memories allows you to better understand what happened, as well as to process the feelings associated with those events. Needless to say, discovering a repressed memory or coming to the realization that a memory was inaccurate can be distressing. CBT can help you to process these emotions as well.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and PTSD can mean truly understanding what happened during a traumatic event. CBT can also help you come to grips with the emotions that arise from discovering these memories. By revealing inaccurate or false memories, you have the chance to fully process the trauma and hopefully create closure.

Questions, Concerns, Thoughts?

I invite you to call me for a free 15 – minute phone consultation to discuss your specific needs and to answer any questions you have about anxiety, treatment and my practice. Please visit my website @ or call me directly @ (206) 745-4933.