Nearly eight million adults are currently living with PTSD in the United States. The condition affects women more often than men, and it can be caused by experiencing or witnessing traumatic events such as a serious accident, a natural disaster, war, or the sudden death of a loved one. This guide provides information about how PTSD is diagnosed and the various treatment methods that may be recommended.
To assess a patient for possible PTSD, clinicians begin by taking the patient’s health history and performing a physical examination. The information obtained from the examination can help to determine if there is an underlying medical condition that may be responsible for the patient’s symptoms. The patient will also need to undergo a psychological evaluation. Diagnosis is based on the presence of specific symptoms that can develop months or years after a traumatic experience, and the diagnosis can be made if symptoms have persisted for at least one month. According to current diagnostic criteria, symptoms consistent with PTSD include repeatedly replaying the traumatic event in one’s mind, avoiding places, people, or activities that are associated with the trauma, and displaying hyper-vigilance.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged exposure therapy is a treatment method that can help individuals with PTSD who are avoiding places or activities that remind them of the triggering event. The therapy can be especially useful in cases that involve nightmares or flashbacks, and it is widely used to help individuals who experience psychological distress after being in car accidents. If you have been in this situation, you may be able to recover non-economic damages after an accident and get financial assistance with your prolonged exposure therapy treatment. One of the most popular methods of prolonged exposure therapy incorporates the use of virtual reality to allow individuals to safely re-enter the place in which the trauma occurred. Many patients continue this form of treatment for up to three months.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing therapy is one of the most common treatments for PTSD, and it is sometimes used in conjunction with prolonged exposure therapy. During a cognitive processing session, the therapist helps the patient recognize thinking patterns that are hindering the patient’s ability to move forward in his or her life. For example, the patient might be experiencing negative beliefs, and he or she may also have fears about future traumatic events. Cognitive processing therapy helps the patient process the traumatic event and the feelings associated with it, and the therapist helps the patient build healthy coping mechanisms.
In addition to psychological therapy, many patients need to take medication during their treatment for PTSD. Some of the most common medicines used in the treatment of this condition are antidepressants such as sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluoxetine (Prozac). These medications can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression that are associated with PTSD, and they often improve a patient’s concentration and sleep quality. For patients with severe anxiety, clinicians might prescribe a short course of anti-anxiety medicine. Some individuals who have nightmares as a result of their PTSD may benefit from the use of prazosin (Minipress). Patients who take medication as part of their treatment plan should be frequently monitored by their healthcare team.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is used together with prolonged exposure therapy. During this treatment, the healthcare provider guides the patient in performing a series of eye movements while revisiting the traumatic event. The therapist asks the patient to concentrate on a specific aspect of the distress. While doing so, the patient follows the therapist’s hand back and forth with the eyes. The treatment is conducted in eight phases, and the therapist teaches the patient about imagery and stress management techniques to use in between sessions.
With proper support, it is possible to overcome PTSD. If you recognize the symptoms of this condition in yourself or in your loved ones, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.Easily keep track of your medications with our Medication Log Sheet.