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What Are PTSD Interventions?

By H. Colledge
Updated May 17, 2024
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Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition in which patients suffer from anxiety following a life-threatening experience. Typically, patients re-experience the event, attempt to avoid anything associated with it and find it very difficult to relax. PTSD interventions are methods of treating PTSD, and these may include psychotherapy, or talking treatments, and drugs. The main types of PTSD interventions in use are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Drugs may be offered to patients suffering from depression or insomnia.

There are many potential causes of PTSD but they all involve experiencing an overwhelming and potentially fatal event. As diagnosis depends on signs of PTSD persisting for longer than a month, PTSD interventions usually only begin after four weeks have elapsed. The fact that patients sometimes recover without treatment inside four weeks provides another reason to wait, while carefully monitoring symptoms. Post traumatic stress disorder is much more common in women. In fact, there are around twice as many women with PTSD as there are men.

When CBT is used as a PTSD intervention, it is usually carried out by a PTSD specialist. The aim of CBT is to change patterns of thinking in order to change feelings. It also aims to alter any behaviors which are unhelpful, such as avoiding things associated with a traumatic event. CBT is one of the PTSD interventions that has some scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. It can be used to treat children with PTSD, and may be used together with a parental training program, enabling parents to teach their child new coping methods.

EMDR is another of the PTSD interventions that researchers have found to be effective. Patients perform specific eye movements while remembering the distressing experience that caused their condition. There is some evidence that this treatment can be helpful for PTSD, although there is uncertainty about how it works, and it is possible that the eye movements may not contribute to its effectiveness. It has the advantage that talking is not necessary during the treatment.

Children with PTSD may behave differently from adults who have the condition. They might begin to complain of physical symptoms such as stomach aches. Sometimes they have frightening dreams or act out a traumatic event in play. Bed wetting and thumb sucking may occur, and children may become clingy. PTSD interventions for children include providing the right kind of family support, with parents creating stable environments in which children can safely express their feelings.

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