Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment can help you regain a sense of control over your life. With successful post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, you can also feel better about yourself and learn ways to cope if any symptoms arise again.
Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment often includes both medication and psychotherapy. Combining these treatments can help improve your symptoms and teach you skills to cope better with the traumatic event — and life beyond it.
Several types of medications can help symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder improve.
- Antipsychotics. In some cases, you may be prescribed a short course of antipsychotics to relieve severe anxiety and related problems, such as difficulty sleeping or emotional outbursts.
- Antidepressants. These medications can help symptoms of both depression and anxiety. They can also help improve sleep problems and improve your concentration. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) are FDA-approved for the treatment of PTSD.
- Anti-anxiety medications. These drugs also can improve feelings of anxiety and stress.
- Prazosin. If your symptoms include insomnia or recurrent nightmares, a drug called prazosin (Minipress) may help. Prazosin, which has been used for years in the treatment of hypertension, also blocks the brain's response to an adrenaline-like brain chemical called norepinephrine. Although this drug is not specifically approved for the treatment of PTSD, prazosin may reduce or suppress nightmares in many people with PTSD.
You and your doctor will need to work together to figure out the best treatment, with the fewest side effects, for your symptoms and situation. You may see an improvement in your mood and other symptoms within a few weeks.
Be sure to tell your health care professional about any side effects or problems you have with the medications, as you may be able to try something different.
Several types of therapy may be used to treat both children and adults with post-traumatic stress disorder. You may try more than one, or combine types, before finding the right fit for you. You may also try individual therapy, group therapy or both. Group therapy can offer a way to connect to others going through similar experiences.
Some types of therapy used in PTSD treatment include:
Cognitive therapy. This type of talk therapy helps you recognize the ways of thinking (cognitive patterns) that are keeping you stuck — for example, negative or inaccurate ways of perceiving normal situations.
In PTSD treatment, cognitive therapy often is used along with a behavioral therapy called exposure therapy.
- Exposure therapy. This behavioral therapy technique helps you safely face the very thing that you find frightening, so that you can learn to cope with it effectively. A new approach to exposure therapy uses "virtual reality" programs that allow you to re-enter the setting in which you experienced trauma — for example, a "Virtual Iraq" program.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This type of therapy combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories.
All these approaches can help you gain control of lasting fear after a traumatic event. The type of therapy that may be best for you depends on a number of factors that you and your health care professional can discuss.
Medications and psychotherapy also can help you if you've developed other problems related to your traumatic experience, such as depression, anxiety, or alcohol or substance abuse. You don't have to try to handle the burden of PTSD on your own.
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