Jun 22nd 2023
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that develops in some individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD is characterized by symptoms such as intrusive memories, nightmares, hypervigilance, and flashbacks.  While PTSD may not be fully cured, treatment can be very effective in significantly reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.
The primary treatment for PTSD is psychotherapy, but medication may also be used in some cases. The primary goals of treatment are to learn skills and coping mechanisms to help manage symptoms and to address any comorbid disorders that frequently occur, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. 
TF-CBT helps you change negative patterns of thinking and behaving, by addressing any limiting beliefs you may hold related to the traumatic event.  This form of CBT was created specifically for treating PTSD and incorporates a variety of evidence-based techniques. Typically, 8-12 weekly sessions of 60-90 minutes are recommended. 
Prolonged exposure (PE) is one technique that is often integrated into TF-CBT.  This strategy involves gradually confronting your fears, including painful memories or triggers, in order to learn that they can no longer harm you. 60–120-minute sessions are often recommended so that there is enough time to fully process the experience 
In EMDR, the patient revisits the traumatic event while making a series of guided bilateral eye movements.  The goal is to help your brain process and reframe traumatic experiences in a more adaptive way. While it’s not entirely clear how it works, EMDR is found to be effective in reducing symptoms, such as hypervigilance. 
Medication is generally only recommended in cases where therapy alone has not been effective or would be difficult to participate in due to other underlying medical conditions.  Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), specifically sertraline and paroxetine, are the only approved medications for PTSD. 
If symptoms are mild or have been present for less than a month, a doctor or mental health professional may recommend active monitoring, or “watchful waiting” before starting any treatment. This approach involves carefully monitoring symptoms yourself and checking in with your doctor for a follow-up appointment. 
Self-care is also helpful in managing symptoms. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting regular physical exercise, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Breathing and mindfulness techniques can help, especially during flashbacks.  Educating yourself on the disorder can also be beneficial.
PTSD treatment and recovery is a long-term process, and every individual may respond differently. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried that your treatment isn’t working for you or if you’re experiencing negative side effects.
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