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PTSD Treatment Paths: Proven Therapies for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a kind of anxiety disorder, can develop after a terrifying or distressing event. Even if you were not personally engaged, the shock of what occurred might make it difficult to live a normal life.

People with PTSD may experience insomnia, flashbacks, poor self-esteem, and a variety of unpleasant or painful feelings. You may either repeatedly replay the experience or completely forget it. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 6 out of every 100 Americans (or 6% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.

When suffering from PTSD, patients might feel that they will never regain control of their lives. But it is treatable. Both short-term and long-term psychotherapies and medications are highly effective. 

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD vary widely from person to person, however, they often fall into one of the categories listed below.

  • Re-experiencing (flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive and distressing images)
  • Avoidance and emotional numbing
  • Hyperarousal or hypervigilance (feeling “on edge”)
  • Mental illness (depression, anxiety, phobias)
  • Self-harming or destructive behavior
  • Intrusive thoughts

Detailed Assessment Before Treatment

Before treating PTSD, a comprehensive assessment of symptoms will be performed to ensure that treatment is customized to the individual’s needs. This can be done by a general practitioner or a specialist.

If the individual has been experiencing PTSD symptoms for more than 4 weeks or if their symptoms are severe, they are likely to be offered therapy. But if their PTSD symptoms are mild or have been active for less than four weeks, an approach known as active monitoring may be recommended.

Psychological therapists, psychologists, community psychiatric nurses, and psychiatrists are among the mental health professionals that can be called for the treatment of PTSD.

a picture presenting the coping strategies common in PTSD treatment paths

Treatments for PTSD

Treatment for ptsd can help you recover control over your life. Psychotherapy is the primary treatment, however, medication can also be used. Combining these effective treatment options will help you get rid of your symptoms by:

  • Educating you on how to deal with your symptoms
  • Helping you think more positively about yourself, others, and the world
  • Treating additional issues that are often linked to traumatic experiences, such as depression, anxiety, or alcohol or drug abuse
  • Learning coping strategies in case any symptoms reappear

Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

Psychotherapies are the most common treatments for patients with PTSD. Because each patient is different, a treatment that works for one person might not work for another. Some people may need to try a variety of therapies to discover the one that works best for them. Regardless of the therapy option you choose, it’s critical to get treatment from PTSD-trained mental health professional.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT is based on the concept that you were probably unable to completely understand what occurred to you immediately after a traumatic event. You can eventually come to unhealthy conclusions as a result of your efforts to comprehend the event and how it influenced you. CPT seeks to discover these erroneous conclusions and reconstruct them in a more healthy way.

This type of therapy typically lasts 12 sessions, during which you and your therapist work together to process what happened by discussing or writing. Your therapist can help you gain control over your anxiety and suffering by discussing any conclusions you have derived from your experience.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Exposure assists you in confronting both terrifying events and memories so that you can learn to cope with them properly. This treatment consists of eight to fifteen sessions, often lasting 90 minutes. Your therapist will teach you breathing techniques early on in treatment to help you feel less anxious when you think about what happened.

You’ll later create a list of the things you’ve been avoiding and learn how to confront them one by one. In another appointment, you’ll tell your therapist about the traumatic event, then go home and listen to a tape of yourself. Doing this helps ease down the symptoms.

Cognitive Restructuring

This therapy is a form of intervention that helps in the processing of bad memories. People regularly recall their experience in a different light from how it occurred (e.g., not remembering certain parts of the trauma, remembering it in a disjointed way). Cognitive restructuring enables people to look at what happened rationally in order to have a more realistic understanding of the trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR integrates exposure therapy with a sequence of guided eye movements to assist you in processing painful memories and changing your response to them. With EMDR, you may not need to discuss your experience with your therapist.

You focus on it while seeing or listening to something they are doing, such as moving their hand, flashing a light, or making a sound. The objective is to be able to think of something pleasant while recalling the trauma. This therapy requires about three months of weekly sessions.

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)

SIT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It can be done alone or in a group. You do not need to go into great detail about what occurred. The emphasis is on altering how you deal with the stress caused by the event. You can learn massage and breathing methods, as well as other ways to calm your mind and body and eliminate negative thoughts. After around three months, you should be able to cope with the additional stress in your life.

Present-centered Therapy (PCT)

This therapy is a sort of non-trauma-oriented treatment that focuses on current issues rather than the trauma itself. PCT teaches problem-solving approaches to cope with current life challenges as well as psychoeducation regarding the influence of trauma on one’s life.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

EFT includes tapping, comparable to acupressure, and a type of massage that relieves pain and muscular stress by applying physical pressure to certain sensitive areas on the skin. A skilled therapist can teach you how to tap particular rhythms on your hands, head, face, and collarbones while actively rephrasing your thoughts of a traumatic event over the course of 4 to 10 sessions.

EFT treatments have been shown in studies to improve PTSD symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and pain. EFT therapies also help to reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in the body.


Because the balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters is out of whack in the brains of people with PTSD, they experience “threats” differently. They have an easily activated “fight-or-flight” reaction, which causes them to feel jittery and uneasy. Trying to shut that down all the time could leave you feeling emotionally cold and distant.

Medications help avoid thinking about and responding to what happened, which can include nightmares and flashbacks. They can also assist in regaining a more optimistic attitude on life and a sense of “normalcy.”

Several types of medications alter the brain chemistry associated with fear and anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are typically the first line of treatment.

  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

Only paroxetine and sertraline are FDA-approved treatments for PTSD. Your doctor may prescribe additional drugs “off-label” because individuals respond differently to medications and PTSD symptoms vary from person to person. Examples include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Antipsychotics or antipsychotics of the second generation (SGAs)
  • Antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Benzodiazepines

Which one or combination of medications is likely to work best for you is determined in part by the kind of problems you’re experiencing in your life, the severity of the side effects, and whether you also have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse issues.

graphic web showing the effective PTSD treatment path options and therapies

Coping and Support

Consult your doctor or a mental health expert if you are experiencing stress or other difficulties as a result of a traumatic experience. You can also take the following steps as part of your posttraumatic stress disorder treatment:

Develop a treatment plan.

Although it may take some time to feel the advantages of therapy or medications, treatment can be beneficial, and the majority of individuals recover. Keep in mind that it takes time. Following your treatment plan and interacting with your mental health expert regularly will help you progress.

Explore your PTSD symptoms.

Understanding PTSD can help you comprehend your emotions, and then you can establish coping mechanisms to help you respond appropriately.

Find support groups.

Request assistance from a mental health practitioner in locating and joining a support group, or reaching out to veterans’ groups or your local social services system. Or, use an internet directory to find local support groups.

Enjoy your relationships.

Spend time with people who are supportive and caring, such as family, friends, or others. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to say anything about what happened. Simply spending time with loved ones can be therapeutic and comforting.

Get enough self-care.

Take care of yourself by getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and relaxing. Caffeine and nicotine, which can increase anxiety, should be limited or avoided. To regain your calm when feeling anxious, take a quick walk or engage in an activity.

Get Professional Help at The Recovery Team

Trauma can cause physiological, neurological, and emotional effects. The Recovery Team can help you minimize those effects and live a happy and productive life. Our focus is always on providing each PTSD patient with individual guidance and effective care through proven therapies and effective medications.

If you or your loved one sees symptoms disrupting their life, call our compassionate specialists 24/7 at (800) 817-1247.