Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Pharmaceutical Treatments for PTSD

The main treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are psychotherapy and medication. To date, pharmaceutical treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder have had mixes success, with limited evidence of long-term benefits to patients. Antidepressants such as paroxetine, mirtazapine and amitriptyline are sometimes used to treat symptoms of PTSD in adults. Of these medications, only paroxetine is licensed specifically for the purpose. However, mirtazapine and amitriptyline have been found to be effective on occasion and are sometimes recommended as well.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to many research studies, cognitive behavioural therapy is the most effective way of treating PTSD. When cognitive behavioural therapy is used it usually includes a procedure called ‘prolonged exposure’ which, as the name suggests, is a treatment that involves the patient repeatedly reliving the traumatic event for long periods of time (i.e. an hour or more) until their anxiety diminishes. As an example, car accident victims often suffer a residual fear of car travel, and in such cases prolonged exposure exercises involve the patient driving (or riding as a passenger) repeatedly through feared situations.

Different forms of cognitive therapy are often used to treat PTSD, including exercises to develop a more adaptive and realistic perception of the danger or to re-evaluate the future implications of trauma exposure to the individual. It is generally believed that two fundamental changes are necessary for those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder to show signs of clinical improvement: The first is ‘reduced avoidance behaviour’, and the second is ‘trauma appraisal change’.

Reduced Avoidance Behaviour

Reduced avoidance behaviour can either be overt (reduced driving in cars), or covert (avoidance of memories). The objective of the reliving exercise is to reduce covert avoidance, while in vivo forms of exposure exercises are geared towards reducing overt avoidance. Avoidance coping is a maladaptive coping mechanism characterised by the effort to avoid dealing with the source of stress or trauma and can be an extremely effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Variations of avoidance coping include modifying or eliminating the conditions that gave rise to the problem and changing the perception of an experience in a way that neutralises the problem.

Trauma Appraisal Change

The second required change in the patient for successful treatment of PTSD to take place is to enable the client to change their perception of the situation related to the traumatic event, whether it is a road traffic accident or work-related injury. Victims of road traffic accidents who suffer from physical injuries as a result of the crash may view their lifestyle and self-image negatively, and therefore require guidance on how to move forward with their lives. Trauma victims often come to believe that certain activities (such as travelling in a car) are more dangerous than they actually are, and that the safety net provided by society is insufficient. They may even come to believe that family members, friends, employers and insurance companies are non-supportive or adversarial.

Long-Term Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Those who are suffering the effects of PTSD often respond positively to cognitive behavioural therapy in 15 hours of therapy or less. However, despite our increasing knowledge of successful treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms of PTSD sometimes fail to subside. For example, individuals who have chronic pain conditions resulting from the car accident that precipitated their PTSD show less improvement than those who do not suffer from chronic pain. Individuals who are more severely depressed or who have high levels of anger about the trauma also do worse in treatment.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be linked to the physical and emotional trauma of major trauma, as well as chronic pain disorders caused by injuries and accidents. Early treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder is vital to the long-term health of the patient, as if not recognised and treated, PTSD can assume the characteristics of other emotional or physical ailments. Early recognition and management of the disorder through cognitive therapy can help reduce the emotional and physical impact of the car accident – and PTSD – on the individual’s life.

If you have had – or are still suffering from – the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by an accident or injury, contact us today to discuss your personal injury claim today.