Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a treatable condition. However, treatment may take time, with periods of symptom remission followed by periods where symptoms are exacerbated. The condition may develop within days, weeks, months, or even years after the traumatic event has occurred.
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A team of medical professionals and other specialists are often involved in helping a PTSD patient recover. This team typically includes a mental health specialist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a community psychiatric nurse, and/or a social worker.
An outline for the treatment of PTSD is given below:
- Among people with mild symptoms that have been present for less than four weeks after experiencing a traumatic event, a watchful waiting approach may be adopted where the person is closely monitored to see if symptoms worsen. If watchful waiting is prescribed, a follow-up appointment after one month is usually scheduled.
- Psychotherapy is one of the main approaches to treating PTSD. Psychotherapy may be carried out on a one-on-one basis or as group-based therapy. Psychotherapy treatment for PTSD may last for 6 to 12 weeks or more.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that helps a patient change any negative impact that disrupted thought patterns or attitudes are having on their behavior. This is achieved by individually breaking down problems that are arising on a day-to-day basis and analyzing and changing any negative thoughts that may be triggering them. Patients usually attend 90-minute sessions of CBT once or twice weekly over the course of 8 to 12 weeks, although less may be needed if the therapy is started within one month of when the patient initially experienced the traumatic event.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a relatively new approach to treating PTSD that involves the patient moving their eyes from side-to-side while remembering the traumatic event. This technique helps the hippocampus in the brain to processes unpleasant memories and flashbacks so that their impact on the mind is decreased.
- Medications that can be used to treat PTSD include the antidepressant paroxetine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and mirtazapine, a noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant. These medications are generally used in severe cases that have not responded to psychotherapy or CBT alone. Tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines and antipsychotic medications may also be prescribed for some individuals.
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