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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition caused by trauma, occurring after a particularly distressing event, such as military combat, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, violent assaults, or serious road accidents.

We understand that living with PTSD can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life, which is why Priory specialists at nationwide UK hospitals and wellbeing centres can discuss your situation, and talk you through the various treatment options available and devise a treatment plan towards helping relieve symptoms of the disorder.

If you are diagnosed with PTSD, alongside panic attacks and related symptoms, you will frequently relive the scenes in your mind, appearing as nightmares or flashbacks, which may be accompanied by feelings of loneliness, irritability, and sometimes guilt if you feel there was something you could have done to prevent the harrowing events from unfolding.

PTSD can be successfully treated, even if your symptoms appear some time after the initial trauma, with the type of treatment offered depending on the severity of your symptoms and how soon they have appeared after the event.

You may experience symptoms of PTSD immediately after the distressing event has occurred, although a small number of people have a delay in onset of symptoms for months or even years. When these symptoms do occur, they may happen constantly, and severely affect your ability to function most days, although some people with the condition can go extensive amounts of time without noticing any issues, before symptoms ultimately flare-up.

Treatment for PTSD

To assess whether you are suffering from PTSD, you may be required to undergo structured interviews and psychological assessments. The symptoms of PTSD must also last for at least a month before treatment options are considered.

Therapy and medication treatment for PTSD

Immediately after a traumatic event, you may experience some of the symptoms found in PTSD which are perfectly normal reactions to shock. This may include feeling ‘numb’ or that you are detached from the reality of what has occurred, while you may also find it difficult to find a consistent pattern of sleep.

This is otherwise known as an acute stress reaction, and shouldn’t last for more than a few weeks. If you find that you are experiencing PTSD symptoms for over a month, then an formal diagnosis may occur, at which point you may require professional medical help and support in order to appropriately address how you are feeling.        

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, there are a range of treatments available. Priory specialists will talk you through the options available and recommend the most suitable treatment based on your personal circumstances.

PTSD treatment options typically include:

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you to understand your thought processes and how to change your feelings and reactions to your symptoms. One form of CBT is known as exposure therapy, which is unique to treating trauma seen in conditions such as PTSD.

This involves you imagining the trauma within a safe, controlled environment to help you to face up to your fears. This enables our specialists to examine your reactions to the event and help you to overcome your anger, shame or guilt. This will enable you to deal with traumatic memories and feelings without becoming overwhelmed or emotionally numb.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR combines elements of exposure therapy and CBT with eye-movement techniques. While concentrating on your traumatic experience, special rapid eye movements will help you through the healing process and improve your confidence by activating specific areas of the brain which releases any emotional experiences which have affected the nervous system. This form of therapy is particularly effective if you have PTSD, any many scientific research studies have demonstrated its effectiveness.

Group therapy for PTSD

By discussing your emotions and trauma with a group of other PTSD sufferers, you will achieve greater understanding of your condition and emotions. Group PTSD treatment will help you to become more confident and trusting, and enable you to focus on the present rather than the past.

Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy

This focuses on the emotional conflicts caused by the traumatic event, particularly experiences dating back to when you were young. By working with a calm and unbiased therapist, you will achieve a greater sense of self-esteem and develop effective methods of thinking and coping with intense emotions.

Priory also provides a tailored one-to-one outpatient therapy package for PTSD. Our packages offer certainty of price for a set amount of one-to-one therapy sessions, including discounted rates. The amount of sessions that we recommend within each package is based on national guidelines.

Watchful waiting

If your symptoms of PTSD are diagnosed as mild during your initial assessment, or your symptoms of the disorder have lasted only a short amount of time, then it may be recommend that you embark on a period known as ‘watching waiting’.

This is an approach which requires increased focus on whether your symptoms are getting better or worse, with a follow-up appointment allowing assessment of whether treatment to relieve your symptoms is required.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Ed Burns (MBChB, MRCPsych, MSc) in May 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in May 2020. To view all Priory PTSD specialists, please click here.

What is PTSD?
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Signs and symptoms of PTSD
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