Psychiatric and Mental Health Treatments for PTSD 

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that can arise after someone experiences or witnesses a deeply troubling event. PTSD can occur immediately after the event or develop months or even years later. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and depression, among others. While PTSD can be debilitating, effective psychiatric and mental health treatments are available.

If you or someone you care about is suffering and ready to receive help, join us here for more info on PTSD. Below, we discuss how health professionals diagnose PTSD, therapies — including psychotherapy and medication — considerations for each and where to find help.

PTSD Assessment and Monitoring

Something you find profoundly troubling can trigger PTSD. Doctors perform physical exams and psychological evaluations to diagnose this condition. They also use the following criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

  1. Exposure to a traumatic event: The person must have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, combat or a natural disaster.
  2. Intrusive symptoms: The person must experience intrusive symptoms related to the traumatic event, such as recurrent and distressing memories, nightmares or flashbacks.
  3. Avoidance: The person must actively avoid reminders of the traumatic event, such as places, people or activities that trigger memories.
  4. Negative mood or cognition changes: The person must experience adverse changes in their mood or thoughts related to the traumatic event, such as persistent negative beliefs or emotions, feelings of detachment or a diminished interest in activities.
  5. Arousal and reactivity: The person must experience increased arousal or reactivity symptoms, such as hypervigilance, irritability or a startle response.

In addition to meeting all of the criteria above, a person must feel significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.

Talk Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Talk therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, a structured, short-term therapy focusing on helping people identify and change negative thought patterns contributing to their PTSD symptoms.

CBT stems from the idea that our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are interconnected. Talk therapy for PTSD aims to help people understand how their thoughts and behaviors affect their symptoms and teaches them management and coping skills.

In CBT, clients work closely with a therapist to identify and challenge negative thoughts related to the experience that adversely affected their mental wellness. They learn to recognize and replace these thoughts with more positive and realistic ones. Additionally, they acquire coping skills such as relaxation techniques and problem-solving strategies to help them manage their symptoms.

CBT for PTSD typically involves 12 to 16 individual or group sessions. CBT has effectively reduced symptoms and improved the overall quality of life for people with PTSD.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is another evidence-based psychotherapy treatment for PTSD designed to help people process traumatic memories using a structured approach that includes eye movements, sounds or taps. EMDR relies on the idea that disturbing events can stay deep within people’s minds and lead to ongoing PTSD symptoms.

During an EMDR session, individuals focus on a traumatic memory while watching the therapist performing some activity — moving their hands, flashing a light or making a noise. This exercise helps the brain reprocess the upsetting memory and reduce the power of associated emotions. EMDR also involves identifying and addressing negative beliefs and thoughts related to the traumatic memory and replacing them with healthy, adaptive ideas.

Research has shown EMDR is an effective PTSD treatment, with studies indicating that it can significantly reduce PTSD symptoms. EMDR typically occurs over several sessions, depending on the client’s needs and symptom severity.

Medications

Medication can help those with PTSD stop reliving and reacting to the traumatic event and develop a positive outlook on life.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are two drug types that can alter brain chemistry related to anxiety and fear. Doctors commonly prescribe the following SSRIs and SNRIs as a first-line PTSD treatment:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Zoloft and Paxil have officially received full FDA approval for PTSD treatment, while Prozac and Effexor have received conditional approval.

Doctors may prescribe other types of medications for off-label PTSD treatment, which means the drugs can treat conditions not specifically mentioned on the label. Off-label medications for PTSD include the following:

  • Antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Antipsychotics or second-generation antipsychotics
  • Beta blockers
  • Benzodiazepines

The Adverse Consequences of PTSD Medications and Treatments

While available treatment options for PTSD can relieve its symptoms, they can also have adverse consequences. SSRIs and SNRIs can cause side effects like nausea, insomnia and sexual dysfunction. Additionally, some people may not respond well to medication or experience worsening symptoms.

In some cases, clients find therapy distressing, causing worsening symptoms. Trauma therapy can also be time-consuming, expensive and may not be accessible to everyone.

Not all PTSD treatments are evidence-based or equally effective. Seeking unproven alternative or complementary therapies can delay healing and potentially worsen symptoms.

Dr. Cohen and the Expert Principium Medical Team

Principium Psychiatry is a mental health clinic that provides evidence-based PTSD therapies and treatments for various other mental health conditions. These include medication management, psychotherapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy.

Principium Psychiatry’s approach relies on personalized, compassionate care. We work closely with each patient to develop a tailored treatment plan that addresses their unique needs and goals. Our team of mental health professionals, led by Dr. Ziv Ezra Cohen, includes board-certified psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and therapists with extensive experience.

Our providers use the latest research and techniques to ensure the best possible patient outcomes. In addition to PTSD, Principium Psychiatry treats depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

We have offices in midtown Manhattan, lower Manhattan, Broadway and Greenwich, Conn.

Book an Appointment Today

Book an Appointment Today

Living with the symptoms of PTSD can be challenging and even debilitating, but with professional help, you can move forward and feel better. Dr. Cohen and the team at Principium Psychiatry can help you learn to manage and cope with your PTSD symptoms. Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment, where we’ll discuss the best ways to get you back to living a fulfilling life.

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