New Treatment Options for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Traditional treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder includes anxiety medications and therapy. But information presented at the Military Health Research Forum (September 2009) provided additional options for treating PTSD.


    Because anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of soldiers that have spent time in war zones show symptoms of PTSD, the military has researched possible effective treatments as well how to improve care and quality of life for soldiers suffering the sometimes debilitated impact of PTSD. Below are some of the treatments being researched by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

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    Virtual Environments


    Usually, treatment for PTSD includes some type of cognitive therapy. Many times this will include exposure therapy, where the anxiety sufferer will be exposed to situations and events that cause anxiety slowly. This type of treatment, however, requires the individual to frequently visit the therapist's office. This can cause difficulty for many veterans. Creating virtual environments can allow the therapist and patient to work together, via computers, cell phones or video games. 


    The virtual environments built by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services for the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System attempts to create everyday situations and encounters and lets the patient and the therapist go through the situations together, online.


    The first virtual environment created is a supermarket, allowing for a number of different cognitive and emotional challenges:

    • Following a shopping list
    • Purchasing items
    • Budgeting
    • Making change
    • Talking to clerks and other shoppers
    • Colliding carts with other shoppers

    This treatment is different than programs in the past, as those focused on exposure therapy in which veterans were exposed to combat and battle situations to become desensitized. This therapy, however, focuses on everyday life and helping PTSD sufferers to manage triggers that may appear during normal daily tasks.


    This type of treatment is meant to treat mild post traumatic stress disorder.


    Prazosin to Help Reduce Nightmares and Sleep Disturbances


    Nighttime flashbacks, sleep problems and nightmares are common symptoms of PTSD. Often, these symptoms don't just disturb nighttime sleep but impact daytime functioning.


    The medication Prazosin has been found to be effective in improving sleep and therefore improving daytime function in individuals with PTSD. Patients taking Prazosin have a reduction or elimination of trauma nightmares.


    The newest research on this medication showed this medication to be helpful to soldiers that were still in the field, not only those that have returned home. Thirteen soldiers were given the medication while still on active duty. Nine soldiers, or 70 percent, indicated daytime functioning improved and problems with sleeping decreased dramatically while taking Prazosin.


    Service Dogs


    An ongoing research study at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is currently testing how effective psychiatric service dogs can help soldiers disabled by post traumatic stress disorder.


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    Previous, preliminary research indicated that up to 82 percent of those individuals with PTSD has a reduction of symptoms after being provided with a service dog. Forty percent of the patients were able to reduce the amount of medication taken to manage symptoms.


    During the study, service dogs seemed to be able to sense mental illness episodes, including panic attacks or manic episodes before the patients even realized the symptoms were present.


    The present research study includes 20 soldiers, all considered disabled by PTSD. All of the soldiers will receive usual treatment and have ongoing evaluations throughout the next 12 months. Ten of the soldiers will receive service dogs and professional training for working with the service dogs. At the end of the 12-month period, both groups will be evaluated to determine if the group with the dogs fared better.


    For more information:


    What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


    Types of Treatment for PTSD


    Risk Factors and Diagnosis of PTSD




    Innovative Therapies for Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2009, Sept 2, Author Unknown,


Published On: October 02, 2009