Treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are numerous. Depending upon the cause of PTSD, sometimes people have emergency intervention or debriefing sessions immediately after a trauma has occurred. People with PTSD then may benefit from participating in psychotherapy, support groups and in a special treatment called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Manifestation of severe symptoms like panic attacks or depression may also be treated with psychiatric medication.
If a person has just experienced a traumatic event, one may have what is called a critical incident debriefing session with a licensed counselor. Debriefing also occurs when one leaves the military, or in a group setting when students have experienced a loss, like the death of a classmate. Debriefing after a rape or other violent attacks on one’s person, or after witnessing a violent attack is also quite helpful. Policemen and firemen often have debriefing sessions after witnessing terrible trauma.
Usually this first intervention involves a discussion of the event. It gives one an opportunity to discuss his or her feelings about what occurred. The debriefing counselor may then provide information about resources for additional support and discuss coping strategies. The counselor may also provide specific referrals to therapists skilled in PTSD, or to support groups designed for those who have experienced similar types of trauma.
The goal of these sessions is to help people overcome PTSD quickly and begin to assess if follow-up treatment will be needed. While all people experience mental turmoil after trauma, PTSD is more pronounced. People with PTSD may have anxiety attacks, sudden recall of the trauma, flashbacks, and generalized stress long after a traumatic event has recurred. The condition can become so serious that people can no longer work or function appropriately in society. Debriefing helps start the immediate process of dealing with trauma, which is more likely to assist people in avoiding the more serious effects of PTSD.
Unfortunately, not all people experiencing trauma have access to debriefing. Those who have undergone an extended traumatic event, like watching a beloved person slowly die from disease, cannot be debriefed as effectively as those experiencing a single event. If the event is still occurring, people may exhibit PTSD, and stress from current trauma.
Both for those who are helped with an initial debriefing and for those who are not, psychotherapy and support groups play an extremely important role. They provide the person with PTSD continued support for the types of symptoms they may experience. They also provide a place where a person can continue to discuss an event that may have occurred a long time ago. Unfortunately, most people tend to limit how long they’re willing to listen to a person rehash a trauma. Licensed therapists, however, do not place this limit. Going over the event, or portions of experienced trauma, as many times as needed allows the person to gradually deal with the trauma.
Some therapists also perform EMDR. Patients are directed to watch a moving light, a moving finger or a metronome, which induces REM-like eye movement. They go over traumatic elements or hot thoughts about the trauma that may help them deal with the trauma in a subconscious way. Usually EMDR is used in conjunction with talk therapy, and part of EMDR is reviewing the experience through discussion. Some people feel relief from EMDR for PTSD after a few sessions. For others, the process may not work.
People with PTSD may also be treated with psychiatric medications. There is some indication that a traumatic event happening to a person who might already border on having a psychiatric condition, might push that person into developing the condition after a trauma. For example, a person who is cylothymic might become bipolar as a result of PTSD. In other cases, depression or anxiety related to the incident is treated with short-term use of medication. This can include treatment with anti-depressants or anti-anxiety agents.
Those who have lived for many years with untreated PTSD may manifest full psychosis. They may therefore require anti-psychotic medications to treat extremely violent behavior or self-injury. Treating PTSD with medication at its onset may not always prove successful. Changing the moods and perception even slightly through medication may worsen instead of improve a person’s altered perception and moods caused by trauma.