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What are the Different Methods for Treating PTSD?

Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Updated May 17, 2024
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The primary methods of treating PTSD, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder, include individual therapy, group therapy and drug therapy. Within these treatment types, different therapeutic approaches may be employed. At times, a patient may also be exposed to more than one method of treating PTSD.

When treating PTSD, trained therapists work with individual patients to discover the origins of this disorder. Caused by one or more traumatic events, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder often cause patients to withdraw from social interaction, experience chronic depression and develop other conditions, such as memory loss and sleep disorders. During treatment, a therapist will attempt to help the patient cope with unresolved events causing stress and discover better ways of managing memories so the emotional trauma from such events is significantly reduced and no longer immobilizes the patient.

Specifically, many therapists use a treatment model known as psychodynamic therapy when treating PTSD. By discussing the traumatic event that has triggered a patient’s stress disorder, therapists hope to help the patient manage the stressful emotions that such memories produce. During psychodynamic therapy, therapists also help patients determine which current events trigger PTSD symptoms so a patient can either avoid such triggers or learn better coping skills. Psychodynamic therapy is often used for treating PTSD in children, as well as adults.

A second type of individual therapy combines the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is useful in retraining individuals to better manage stress, and exposure therapy, which hopes to desensitize patients to stress triggers by repeatedly exposing a patient to those triggers. Within this method of treating PTSD, patients are taught unique social skills, relaxation techniques, distraction techniques and special breathing techniques. Therapists also use biofeedback to illustrate the ways in which mental stress impacts the body.

A third way of treating PTSD involves group therapy. Individuals are placed in groups with others who have undergone similar traumas. By talking about emotional fears, stress and other PTSD symptoms with others who can strongly identify with the group, patients are able to release stress and mental anguish while learning to cope with the trauma that has occurred.

Under more severe circumstances, doctors will prescribe medication for treating PTSD. Commonly, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medicines, as well as medications designed to help patients achieve restorative sleep are prescribed. Individuals prescribed medication for PTSD usually also undergo individual or group therapy while taking medication.

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