If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, the good news is that many effective PTSD treatments are available. Treatment for PTSD may include education, therapy and medication, and can last from several months to up to two years, depending on your symptoms and other mental health conditions you may have.
Knowing the facts about PTSD helps sufferers understand that their condition is caused by traumatic stress, rather than weakness. This knowledge can help reduce feelings of shame that may prevent people from seeking further treatment. PTSD education also helps patients:
- Learn that they are not alone in this condition
- Manage feelings of anger and anxiety
- Recognize and understand their symptoms
- Understand treatment options.
PTSD Treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
According to the National Center for PTSD (2007), the most effective type of PTSD therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy. There are several types of cognitive behavioral therapy used to treat PTSD:
- Cognitive therapy: Cognitive therapy helps people with PTSD understand their traumatic experiences and change the way they think about them. It involves identifying thoughts that are scary and/or upsetting and replacing them with thoughts that are not as troubling. Cognitive therapy also helps patients deal with feelings of anger, fear and guilt.
- Exposure therapy: This approach helps people with PTSD learn not to be afraid of their memories by talking about them with a therapist. While it may be difficult to intentionally think and speak about traumatic events, over time exposure therapy helps patients find these memories less overwhelming.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR involves focusing on unrelated stimuli such as eye movements, hand taps and sounds while talking about traumatic memories. This helps to change the way a patient reacts to those memories.
Other Possible PTSD Therapy Treatments
In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, some other types of therapy may be helpful in the treatment of PTSD, including brief psychodynamic psychotherapy, family therapy and group therapy. However, there’s no extensive evidence that supports their effectiveness as PTSD treatments.
Medications for Treatment of PTSD
Sometimes therapy alone isn’t effective in treating PTSD. In these situations, medications may help alleviate some PTSD symptoms.
The most common type of medicine used for PTSD treatment is a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication such as citalopram (CelexaÂ®), fluoxetine (ProzacÂ©), Paroxetine (PaxilÂ®) or sertaline (ZoloftÂ©).
SSRIs, the first medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat PTSD, help to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and panic in people with the disorder. Although other types of antidepressants have been prescribed for PTSD, not as much evidence supports their effectiveness for treating this condition.
In addition to antidepressants, treatment of PTSD sometimes involves mood stabilizers, antipsychotics or medications to relieve the physical symptoms associated with PTSD. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Dryden-Edwards, R., (2010). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved July 4, 2010, from: http://www.medicinenet.com/posttraumatic_stress_disorder/article.htm.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2010). Treatment of PTSD. Retrieved July 4, 2010, from: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/treatment-ptsd.asp.