Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of disorder that is generally the result of surviving extremely disturbing events. PTSD is often suffered by victims of rape or child abuse. It is also common in soldiers who have returned from the battlefront. The most common treatments used to combat PTSD are psychological therapy and medications. The therapy is designed to help the patient relive the episodes that may have led to PTSD, so they may be able to view it objectively, in hopes that this will help them cope with the disorder.
Cognitive behavior therapy is often used to combat PTSD, and is designed to help the patient focus on the trauma that caused the disorder. Sometimes, because the emotional trauma is so great, patients are only able to retrieve small bits of memory associated with the event. It is believed that because patients often do not see the event as a whole, the fragments of the event that are recalled are much more terrifying. In focusing on memories leading up to the event and the aftermath, it often helps patients create one whole memory, which is generally easier to cope with. Without complete recall, patients are often bombarded with frightening fragments of memory.
Another type of therapy that sometimes helps combat PTSD is called “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing” (EMDR). This type of therapy is typically used in conjunction with cognitive behavior therapy. During sessions of cognitive behavior therapy, EMDR is applied as a tool to help with memories that have been lost or blocked. The patient is instructed to move his eyes from left to right, very slowly, or to listen to small sounds coming alternately from each side of his body. Concentrating focus on left to right or right to left sensations is believed to aid in recollection and memory.
Medications generally used to combat PTSD include antidepressants and anticonvulsants. Antidepressants help with the disorder by reducing levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that may trigger anxiety. Anticonvulsants are believed to help patients respond to other types of therapy, such as counseling, because they have a calming effect. In some cases, doctors may prescribe antipsychotic drugs, which, like antidepressants, may help to regulate levels of serotonin. Sometimes patients attempting to combat PTSD can be completely cured, but in some cases, development of a coping mechanism is the outcome of treatment.