Page medically reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Priory Hospital North London in September 2021.
Understanding PTSD Diagnosis
If you are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may be told that you have mild, moderate or severe PTSD, which will determine what type of treatment you are offered to improve your symptoms. The diagnosis you are given is no reflection on how distressing or upsetting the initial event might have been, and simply describes the extent of your symptoms during the current period.
When you receive your diagnosis, it may also be described with the following descriptions:
- Delayed-onset PTSD - If you experience symptoms of PTSD after more than sixth months since the traumatic event, it can often be described as the delayed form of the condition.
- Complex PTSD - Sometimes referred to as CPTSD, this type of PTSD refers to protracted trauma experienced when growing up, which means the symptoms are more ‘deep seated’ than other forms of PTSD. If you have CPTSD, you will have some of the symptoms of PTSD, with additional symptoms such as feelings of distrust and disconnection with people around you. Complex PTSD may be associated with emotional instability.
- Birth trauma - Traumatic experiences and complications when giving birth such as unplanned caesarean sections and emergency treatment can lead to a type of PTSD directly related to childbirth.
If you have moderate to severe PTSD, it is highly likely that you will require a treatment programme consisting of therapy based treatment, which can also be combined with anti-depressant medication for relief of symptoms, offering a greater chance of effective therapy sessions.
Our post traumatic stress disorder treatment centres
We have a network of hospitals and wellbeing centres that offer PTSD treatment on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. To find a PTSD treatment centre near you, use our location finder. You can view some of our nationwide locations below:
Can PTSD be treated?
PTSD can be successfully treated, even if your symptoms appear sometime after the initial trauma. The type of treatment offered depends on the severity of your symptoms and how soon they have appeared after the traumatic event.
You may experience symptoms of PTSD immediately after the distressing event has occurred, although many 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.
For many people, these symptoms lead to depression, panic attacks and generalised anxiety. People can also withdraw from work and social activities. If you think you may be struggling with the symptoms of PTSD, it’s important to seek help and manage the condition.
How is PTSD treated?
Systematic reviews suggest that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) are both effective in the treatment of PTSD.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance suggests that all PTSD sufferers should be offered a course of trauma-focused psychological treatment (either trauma-focused CBT or EMDR), regardless of the time lapse since the traumatic event/series of events.
Treatment of PTSD at Priory involves tried and trusted therapy techniques, working towards reducing the symptoms of the condition. This enables you to process memories and emotions relating to the event that are stopping you from functioning in everyday life.
People with PTSD find it very difficult talk about the traumatic events that have caused it. Trauma focused CBT helps them to talk about the trauma which is the first step in treatment.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (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.
EMDR for PTSD
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) aims to help sufferers to reprocess their traumatic memory and to think more positively about their experience. EMDR involves inducing a series of rapid and rhythmic eye movements to facilitate cognitive change and decrease anxiety. Patients are instructed to focus on a trauma-related image and to bring the negative emotions, sensations and thoughts to the forefront of their minds, while visually tracking the therapist’s fingers as they move back and forth in front of the patient’s eyes.
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 therapy sessions 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.
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.
Medication for PTSD
Medication can be prescribed to reduce the anxiety, depression and insomnia often experienced with PTSD. In some cases, medication may help to relieve the distress and emotional numbness caused by traumatic memories, and also helps you to participate in psychotherapy sessions.
NICE recommends psychological therapy as first line treatment but with drug treatment alongside this. This includes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants such as paroxetine, sertraline, tetracyclic antidepressants, or mirtazapine. These can be recommended when someone is struggling with the symptoms of depression or severe hyper-arousal that significantly affects a sufferer’s ability to benefit from psychological treatment alone. There may also be a clear patient preference for medication over psychological therapy.
Mirtazapine may be quite sedating in some patients but is potentially useful if a person is aroused, irritable or sleeping poorly.
If you find that your thoughts and past experiences are interfering in your life and preventing you from functioning on a daily basis, this is a sign that you need to reach out for professional support.
You really don’t have to suffer on your own; post-traumatic stress disorder is treatable and it’s possible for you to make a full recovery.
Treatment of PTSD at Priory involves tried and trusted therapy techniques, working towards reducing the symptoms of the condition. This enables you to process memories and emotions relating to the event which are stopping you from functioning in everyday life.
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