How to deal with fireworks when suffering from PTSD | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

How to deal with fireworks when suffering from PTSD

Last week Pittsburgh City Paper posted an article with tips on how to deal with anxious pets and fireworks. In Pittsburgh, and around the U.S., fireworks have been going off much more frequently than normal. There was such an increase in complaints about fireworks in Pittsburgh that public safety officials announced the creation of a "fireworks taskforce" of police officers and fire investigators.

While the loud noise may be a nuisance to some, for others it can be extremely traumatic. Those suffering from
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be transported back to the moment their trauma stems from. And with the Fourth of July right around the corner, CP spoke to psychotherapist Sarah Souri, who offers some tips on how to deal with fireworks that may feel more traumatic than inspiring.

"One big issue with fireworks triggering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms is when the fireworks are unpredictable," says Souri, who owns Souri Counseling Solutions in Wexford. "A scheduled fireworks show is different, because a person with PTSD can choose to not attend, or even go somewhere else for a few hours if they know fireworks are going to be set off in or near their neighborhood. It is when fireworks are sudden and unexpected that they really trigger PTSD symptoms, because they can be a jolting reminder of an original trauma or unexpected loud noises as in war, or a car accident, or gunfire violence."

When the first boom of unexpected fireworks happens, Souri suggests
 using noise-canceling headphones to avoid hearing the impact of the following fireworks. Additionally, there are also mindfulness apps, such as Virtual Hope Box and PTSD Coach, that can be effective.

"Finding a counselor that understands trauma and how to treat it, is also a good idea," says Souri, "as trauma treatment can help lessen one's PTSD symptoms even when they are triggered.

"There are some cities in Europe that are now using 'silent' or 'quiet' fireworks," Souris adds. "That idea could be a win-win, since people can still enjoy the beautiful displays of fireworks patterns and lights, without triggering those with anxiety or PTSD, or pets and other animals who can get very frightened by fireworks. I am not sure if any cities in the U.S. have tried these silent or quiet fireworks, but I think it's an idea worth exploring."

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