Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The good news for people suffering from PTSD is there are many effective and proven treatments for this illness.

People who seek treatment find relief from their symptoms and go on to lead a healthy, normal life.

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There are two main courses for treating PTSD. The first is psychotherapy, and the second is SSRI medication (antidepressants). Your doctor may use one, or both of these methods to treat PTSD


Psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, is a way to treat PTSD by simply talking to a trained mental health professional. The counselor can help the patient restructure their memories and form positive, realistic memories that take the place of the distorted, painful memories of their trauma. It is important to find a therapist or counselor that is the right fit for proper PTSD treatment.

There are many different types of psychotherapy:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The counselor takes the patient through a series of 6-12 week sessions designed to help the patient talk through their memories and change how they think about the trauma they experienced.

Exposure Therapy

The counselor helps the patient to become desensitized to fearful or overwhelming memories through repeated conversations about those memories.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This therapy is another way to change the way PTSD sufferers think about their painful memories. While talking about a painful memory, the patient focuses on some external stimuli, such as eye or hand movements.

Stress Inoculation Training

The counselor gives the patient different stress or anxiety management tools, such as breathing and relaxation exercises, to help the patient manage their stress for long-term mental and physical health.

Exposure Therapy (Second Method)

The counselor purposely exposes the patient to memories of their trauma, although in a safe environment. They use writing, mental imagery, or even trips to the scene of the trauma to induce the painful memories. This forces the patient to talk about and face their fears.

Group Therapy

It can be helpful to talk with other people who have gone through traumatic events and suffer from PTSD. Sharing stories and empathizing with others can be an important part of treating posttraumatic stress disorder.

SSRI Medication

SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These medications are also known as antidepressants and are designed to change the way your brain releases chemicals to combat stress and anxiety. They also raise the amount of serotonin (a “feel-good” hormone) in your brain to make you feel less depressed. Chemicals in the brain profoundly affect the way you feel; altering those chemicals can be a helpful way to live a more positive life.

In conjunction with therapy, SSRI drugs can be a helpful tool to help you combat the effects of PTSD. Treating PTSD should not only rely on drugs, but they can be a helpful part of treatment.

Two common SSRI antidepressants used for treating PTSD are:

  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

As with any medication, SSRI drugs should be taken with a full understanding of their potential side effects:

  • Sleeplessness or drowsiness
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Feelings of agitation
  • Headaches and nausea
  • Increased risk of thoughts of suicide