Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Treatment
There are many types of treatment for
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You and your
doctor will discuss the best treatment for you. You may have to try a number of
treatments before you find one that works for you.
A type of
counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy and medicines known as SSRIs
appear to be the most effective treatments for PTSD.2
Treatment can help you feel more in control of your emotions and result in
fewer symptoms, but you may still have some bad memories.
Counseling means talking with a therapist on your own or in a group about the
traumatic event and PTSD. You will talk with your therapist about your memories
and feelings. This will help you change how you think about your trauma. You
will learn how to deal with painful feelings and memories, so you can feel
There are different types of
counseling for PTSD. Several types of therapy have been shown to be effective in treating PTSD. These therapies are:
- Cognitive therapy, in which you learn to
change thoughts about the trauma that are not true or that cause you stress.
- Exposure therapy, in
which you talk about the traumatic event over and over, in a safe place, until
you have less fear.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), in which you focus on distractions like hand
movements and sounds while talking about the traumatic event.
Finding a therapist you trust is important. A good
therapist will listen to your concerns and help you make changes in your life.
Your doctor can help you find one. If you are a veteran, the VA is a good place
to start. Churches sometimes offer services that help people get counseling. Or
you can call your state Health and Welfare office.
SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are a type of antidepressant medicine. These can
help you feel less sad and worried. They appear to be helpful, and for some
people they are very effective. SSRIs include fluoxetine
(such as Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
One Man's Story:
"It's hard to let people in on
your private thoughts. A professional is a great listener, and if you can let
them in, when you talk about your flashbacks, they understand that they're not
some random thoughts."—Marvin, 58
Read more about Marvin.
Other types of treatment
Your doctor also may
suggest you try other types of medicines and other forms of counseling.
- Other types of counseling include group
treatment, brief psychodynamic psychotherapy, and family
- Other types of medicines include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as
amitriptyline and imipramine (Tofranil).
- Atypical antidepressants such as
mirtazapine (Remeron) and venlafaxine extended release (Effexor). One study
has shown that venlafaxine XR reduced PTSD symptoms.8
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
such as isocarboxazid (Marplan) and phenelzine (Nardil).
- Mood stabilizers such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) and lithium
(Lithobid or Eskalith). Mood stabilizers are sometimes taken with
other medicines used for PTSD.
- Antipsychotics such
as risperidone (Risperdal). These medicines may help with symptoms like
nightmares or flashbacks. More research is needed to find out how well these
- Prazosin (Minipress), which is used for nightmares and
sleep problems related to PTSD.
If you are using medicine, take it exactly as prescribed.
Call your doctor if it's not helping your symptoms or if the side effects are
very bad. You and your doctor will decide what to do.