Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment can help you regain a sense of control over your life. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, but often includes medication. Combining these treatments can help improve your symptoms, teach you skills to address your symptoms, help you feel better about yourself and learn ways to cope if any symptoms arise again.

Psychotherapy and medications can also help you if you've developed other problems related to your traumatic experience, such as depression, anxiety, or misuse of alcohol or drugs. You don't have to try to handle the burden of PTSD on your own.

Psychotherapy

Several types of psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, may be used to treat children and adults with PTSD. Some types of psychotherapy used in PTSD treatment include:

  • Cognitive therapy. This type of talk therapy helps you recognize the ways of thinking (cognitive patterns) that are keeping you stuck — for example, negative or inaccurate ways of perceiving normal situations. For PTSD, cognitive therapy often is used along with exposure therapy.
  • Exposure therapy. This behavioral therapy helps you safely face what you find frightening so that you can learn to cope with it effectively. One approach to exposure therapy uses "virtual reality" programs that allow you to re-enter the setting in which you experienced trauma.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories and change how you react to traumatic memories.

All these approaches can help you gain control of lasting fear after a traumatic event. You and your health care professional can discuss what type of therapy or combination of therapies may best meet your needs.

You may try individual therapy, group therapy or both. Group therapy can offer a way to connect with others going through similar experiences.

Medications

Several types of medications can help improve symptoms of PTSD:

  • Antidepressants. These medications can help symptoms of depression and anxiety. They can also help improve sleep problems and concentration. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PTSD treatment.
  • Anti-anxiety medications. These drugs also can improve feelings of anxiety and stress for a short time to relieve severe anxiety and related problems. Because these medications have the potential for abuse, they are not usually taken long term.
  • Prazosin. If symptoms include insomnia or recurrent nightmares, a drug called prazosin (Minipress) may help. Although not specifically FDA-approved for PTSD treatment, prazosin may reduce or suppress nightmares in many people with PTSD.

You and your doctor can work together to figure out the best treatment, with the fewest side effects, for your symptoms and situation. You may see an improvement in your mood and other symptoms within a few weeks.

Tell your health care professional about any side effects or problems with medications. You may need to try more than one or a combination of medications, or your doctor may need to adjust your dosage or medication schedule before finding the right fit for you.

Apr. 15, 2014

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