PTSD is treated by a variety of forms of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and pharmacotherapy (medication).
There is no single best treatment, but some treatments appear to be quite promising, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT includes a number of diverse but related techniques such as cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). For most people symptoms improve over the first year.
Treatment also reduces symptoms but for some symptoms can last a lifetime.
Roughly 30% of individuals develop a chronic form of PTSD.
PTSD usually involves periods of symptom increase followed by remission or decrease, although some individuals may experience symptoms that are long lasting and severe.
Some older veterans, who report a lifetime of only mild symptoms, experience significant increases in symptoms following retirement, severe medical illness in themselves or their spouses, or reminders of their military service, such as reunions and anniversaries.
What other problems do people with PTSD experience?
It is very common for other conditions to occur along with PTSD, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
More than half of men with PTSD also have problems with alcohol. The next most common co-occurring problems in men are depression, followed by conduct disorder, and then problems with drugs.
In women, the most common co-occurring problem is depression. Just under half of women with PTSD also experience depression.
The next most common co-occurring problems in women are specific fears, social anxiety, and then problems with alcohol.
People with PTSD often have problems functioning.
In general, people with PTSD have more unemployment, divorce or separation, spouse abuse and chance of being fired than people without PTSD.
Vietnam veterans with PTSD were found to have many problems with family and other interpersonal relationships, problems with employment, and increased incidents of violence.
People with PTSD also may experience a wide variety of physical symptoms. This is a common occurrence in people who have depression and other anxiety disorders.
Some evidence suggests that PTSD may be associated with increased likelihood of developing medical disorders.
Research is ongoing, and it is too soon to draw firm conclusions about which disorders are associated with PTSD.
PTSD is associated with a number of distinctive neurobiological and physiological changes.
PTSD may be associated with stable neurobiological alterations in both the central & autonomic nervous systems, such as altered brainwave activity, decreased volume of the hippocampus, and abnormal “activation of the amygdala. Both the hippocampus and the amygdala are involved in the processing and integration of memory. The amygdala has also been found to be involved in coordinating the body’s fear response.
I think I have PTSD.
What can I do now?
Many people who might need help for something like PTSD are afraid to go for help.
One out of five people say they might not get help because of what other people might think.
One out of three people say they would not want anyone else to know they were therapy. But almost 50% of people say that there is less shame in seeking help now than there has been in the past .
A study that’s been done of soldiers coming home from Iraq found that only 40% of service members with mental problems said they would get help.
In many cases this was due to the soldiers’ fears about what others would think, and how it could hurt their military careers.
If you think you have PTSD there are a number of things you can do.
You may want to be evaluated for PTSD by psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker specifically trained to assess psychological problems.
You could also discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
If you do not want to be evaluated but feel you have symptoms of PTSD you may choose “watchful waiting.”
Watchful waiting means taking a wait-and-see approach. If you get better on your own, you won’t need treatment.
If your symptoms do not improve after 3 months and they are either causing you distress or are getting in the way of your work or home life, talk with a health professional.
In a few cases, your symptoms may be so severe that you need immediate help.
Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you think that you cannot keep from hurting yourself or someone else.
For more information see http:// www.ncptsd.va.gov/
You are not alone.