PTSD Coping 6 Ways to Manage Intense Emotions in PTSD There are some strategies you can take to manage PTSD emotions By Matthew Tull, PhD Matthew Tull, PhD Twitter Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 04, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Managing intense emotions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an important part of treatment. When people have PTSD, they are likely going to experience very intense negative emotions and finding healthy ways of managing these intense emotions can be a very difficult thing to do. As a result, intense emotions often result in a wide range of unhealthy and impulsive behaviors, such as substance use, binge eating, and deliberate self-harm. Fortunately there are some things you can do to better manage (as well as prevent) intense emotions. Emotions: What Are They and Why Do We Have Them? Tara Moore / Taxi / Getty Images Before discussing how to manage intense emotions, it is first important to understand why we have emotions in the first place. Even though some emotions may feel very uncomfortable and destructive, emotions are important and serve a necessary function. This article presents some basic information on why we have emotions, and how to increase emotional awareness. Knowledge such as this can prevent emotions from feeling out-of-control or unpredictable. Emotions and Types of Emotional Responses Using Distraction to Cope With Strong Emotions Alistair Berg/DigitalVision/Getty Images Strong emotions can be very difficult to manage in the moment. However, distraction is a coping strategy that can be used to help you get through these difficult times. Distraction is anything you do to temporarily take your attention off a strong emotion. Sometimes focusing on a strong emotion can make it feel even stronger and more out of control. Therefore by temporarily distracting yourself you may give the emotion some time to decrease in intensity, making the emotion easier to manage. This article presents a number of easy-to-learn distraction techniques that can be used immediately. How to Cope With Emotions Using Distraction Practicing Self-Care to Improve Your Emotional Health suedhang / Image Source / Getty Images Many of the healthy coping strategies listed in this article are focused on what you can do when you are experiencing an intense emotion. However there are a number of things you can do to prevent the occurrence of intense emotions. Taking care of yourself (for example, getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising) can do wonders in reducing your vulnerability for intense emotions. This article describes some ways that self-care can improve your emotional health. 5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life Self-Soothing Coping Strategies Hero Images / Getty Images Uncomfortable and intense emotions can sometimes occur unexpectedly. Therefore it is important to learn emotion regulation strategies that you can practice on your own. Emotion regulation strategies that you can do by yourself are sometimes described as self-soothing or self-care coping strategies. Effective self-soothing coping strategies may be those that involve one or more of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound). Learn some examples of self-soothing strategies for each sense. Self-Soothing Skills Using the Senses Practicing Mindfulness of Your Emotions Compassionate Eye Foundation / Katie Huisman / Taxi / Getty Images Mindfulness is an excellent strategy for managing intense emotions. Intense emotions can be very distracting, and they can take all our attention away from the present moment. Mindfulness can help bring us back into the present moment, as well as reduce the extent to which we get caught up in our emotions. This article takes you through a basic mindfulness of emotions exercise. How to Use Mindfulness for PTSD "Grounding" Techniques for Managing Intense Emotions Westend61 / Getty Images As the name implies, grounding is a particular way of coping designed to "ground" you in the present moment. In doing so, you can retain your connection with the present moment and reduce the likelihood that you get caught up in, or overwhelmed by, an intense emotion. Some basic grounding exercises are presented in this article. Grounding Techniques for PTSD Flashbacks Anger Management Techniques Peter Dressel / Blend Images / Getty Images People with PTSD can experience high levels of anger and irritability. In fact, irritability is even considered to be one of the symptoms of PTSD. Anger can be a very difficult emotion to cope with, and it can be destructive. Fortunately, there are some healthy ways of regulating anger when it occurs. This article describes one such strategy, taking a personal time out to give your anger some time to subside. Anger Management Techniques for PTSD 7 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Brousse G, Arnaud B, Roger JD, et al. Management of traumatic events: influence of emotion-centered coping strategies on the occurrence of dissociation and post-traumatic stress disorder. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2011;7:127–133. doi:10.2147/NDT.S17130 Sahiner NC, Bal MD. The effects of three different distraction methods on pain and anxiety in children. J Child Health Care. 2016;20(3):277-285. doi:10.1177/1367493515587062 Kim SH, Schneider SM, Kravitz L, Mermier C, Burge MR. Mind-body practices for posttraumatic stress disorder. J Investig Med. 2013;61(5):827–834. doi:10.2310/JIM.0b013e3182906862 Goldman RN, Greenberg L. Working with Identity and Self‐soothing in Emotion‐Focused Therapy for Couples. Fam. Proc. 2013;52(1):62-82. doi:10.1111/famp.12021 Finkelstein-Fox L, Park CL, Riley KE. Mindfulness’ effects on stress, coping, and mood: A daily diary goodness-of-fit study. Emotion. 2019;19(6):1002–1013. doi:10.1037/emo0000495 Lang AJ, Strauss JL, Bomyea J, et al. The theoretical and empirical basis for meditation as an intervention for PTSD. Behav Modif. 2012;36(6):759-786. doi:10.1177/0145445512441200 Scotland-Coogan D, Davis E. Relaxation Techniques for Trauma. J Evid Inf Soc Work. 2016;13(5):434-441. doi:10.1080/23761407.2016.1166845 By Matthew Tull, PhD Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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