Types of Treatment for PTSD

Eileen Bailey | May 8th 2017 May 30th 2017

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In recent years, many advances have been made in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previously, treatment consisted of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exposure therapy. Today, however, there are several new and effective treatments.

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Rating treatments

In 2007, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies began rating treatments for PTSD on a scale of A to E. A score of “A” indicated that there was a “high degree of empirical support,” says Terence Keane, Ph.D., the director of the behavioral science division of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Continue reading to learn about some of the treatments that scored an A.

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Prolonged-exposure therapy

This type of therapy helps people relive their traumatic memories. It is done gradually and in a controlled environment to allow those who suffer from PTSD to gain mastery over their memories. While you might not be able to change the memories, you can change how you react to the memory. The process is repeated until you feel safe. Some therapists are using virtual exposure to enhance this treatment.

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Cognitive-processing therapy

In this form of cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy is combined with reframing the thinking processes that have developed as a result of the traumatic event. For example, if you were involved in a traumatic car accident, you might think it is no longer safe to drive a car. This type of therapy works to reshape that false belief. Cognitive behavioral therapy uses the same process without including exposure therapy.

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Stress-inoculation training

Stress-inoculation training provides you with tools and strategies for combating stressful situations, such as breathing, positive self-talk, meditation, and muscle relaxation. It is often used in combination with other therapies.

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Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

During EMDR, you are guided to make eye movements or tap your fingers while recounting past traumatic events in order to help change how you react to your memories. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, experts aren’t sure exactly how this therapy works, and there is disagreement on whether the eye movements are necessary. However, according to traumacenter.org, numerous studies have shown EMDR to be an effective treatment.

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Medications

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants that work well for symptoms of PTSD. According to the American Psychological Association, paroxetine (Paxil) and sertaline (Zoloft) have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of PTSD and are effective at reducing symptoms.

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Combining treatment

Sometimes the best course of treatment is to combine different methods to find what works best for you. For example, cognitive-processing therapy is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Your therapist might also add in relaxation strategies, or you might take medication for a short time until other therapies begin to work. It’s important to work with someone who specializes in PTSD and knows the different treatments.

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The goal of treatment

Treatment for PTSD is meant to help reduce symptoms, to teach you how to live with symptoms, and to provide ways for coping with other problems and feelings associated with PTSD, such as guilt or sadness. Treatment can also help you improve relationships, get back to work, and enjoy life again.