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 better.
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 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
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 therapy.
- Other types of medicines include:
- Antidepressants such as amitriptyline and imipramine (Tofranil), 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 drugs work.
- 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.
Deciding to get treatment
Unfortunately, many people don't seek treatment for PTSD. You may not seek treatment because you think the symptoms are not bad enough or that you can work things out on your own. But getting treatment is important.
Treatment can make your symptoms less intense and stop them from coming back. It can help you connect with your family, friends, and community. Many people get better with treatment.
If you need help deciding whether to see your doctor, see some reasons why people don't get help and ways to overcome them.
When you first see your therapist, he or she will ask questions about the traumatic event causing PTSD and how severe your symptoms are. You may want your spouse, your partner, or a close family member to come with you. This person can help your doctor understand your symptoms and can help your therapist understand what you've been going through. Being with someone you trust helps you relax.
If you have other problems along with PTSD, such as overuse of alcohol or drugs, you also may need treatment for those problems.