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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

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(PTSD)

 

Definition

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after a traumatic event. PTSD has also been called "shell shock" or "battle fatigue."
 

Causes

The exact cause of PTSD is unknown. PTSD is triggered by exposure to a traumatic event. Situations in which a person feels intense fear, helplessness, or horror are considered traumatic. PTSD has been reported in people who experienced:
  • War
  • Rape
  • Physical assault
  • Natural disaster (eg, earthquake, hurricane, fire)
  • Sexual abuse
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Animal attack
Researchers are studying how problems with synapses in the brain may be linked to PTSD.
 

Treatment

There are many treatments available to help you. Treatment will not only focus on treating PTSD, but will also focus on any other conditions you have (eg, depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse).

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy

Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) involves changing your thinking patterns to improve symptoms. Your therapist may teach you techniques to manage anxiety, stress, and anger.
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Exposure Therapy

In exposure therapy, the therapist brings back the imagery of the event in a safe place. You are gradually guided through a visualization. Re-experiencing the trauma in a controlled environment can help you let go of fear and gain control over anxiety.

Group Therapy

Meeting in a group with other survivors of trauma can be an effective and powerful form of therapy for people with PTSD.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

During this type of therapy, you are asked to talk about the traumatic event, including your memories, feelings, and sensations. While talking, the therapist has you move your eyes side-to-side following hand movements. EMDR combines techniques from both CBT and exposure therapy. The goal is to allow the mind to process the trauma and to develop more positive beliefs about yourself.

Medication

Medicine may help with anxiety, depression, and insomnia . Usually, antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved these medicines to treat PTSD:
  • Paroxetine
  • Sertraline
Your doctor may try these or other psychiatric medicines to help control your symptoms.

RESOURCES

Anxiety Disorders Association of America
http://www.adaa.org/

Gift From Within
http://www.giftfromwithin.org/

National Center for PTSD
http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Psychiatric Association
http://www.cpa-apc.org/

Canadian Psychological Association
http://www.cpa.ca/

References


Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273 . Published May 22, 2009. Accessed August 27, 2012.


Benedek DM, Friedman MJ, Zatzick D. Guideline watch: practice guideline for the treatment of patients with acute stress disorder and posttraumatic dtress disorder. Focus . 2009;7:204-213.


DSM criteria for PTSD. US Department of Veterans Affairs website. Available at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/dsm-iv-tr-ptsd.asp . Updated December 20, 2011. Accessed August 27, 2012.


Jeffereys M. Clinician's guide to medications for PTSD. United States Department of Veterans Affairs website. Available at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/clinicians-guide-to-medications-for-ptsd.asp . Updated September 12, 2011. Accessed August 27, 2012.


Post-traumatic stress disorder. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/topics/ptsd/index.aspx . Accessed August 27, 2012.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated August 21, 2012. Accessed August 27, 2012.


Treatment of PTSD. US Department of Veterans Affairs website. Available at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/treatment-ptsd.asp . Updated April 25, 2012. Accessed August 27, 2012


What is the actual EMDR session like? EMDR International Association website. Available at: http://emdria2.affiniscape.com/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=120 . Accessed August 27, 2012.


What is PTSD? US Department of Veterans Affairs website. Available at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/what-is-ptsd.asp . Updated May 29, 2012. Accessed August 27, 2012.


3/16/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Schnurr PP, Friedman MJ, Engel CC, et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2007;297:820-830.


11/19/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Ji L, Xiaowei Z, Chuanlin W, Wei L. Investigation of posttraumatic stress disorder in children after animal-induced injury in China. Pediatrics. 2010;126(2):e320-324.

 

Revision Information

Review Date: 03/2013
  • Update Date: 03/15/2013