Several psychological and drug treatments appear effective for improving outcomes for adults with posttraumatic stress disorder

Mental Health

Several psychological and drug treatments appear to be effective for improving outcomes for adults with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new research review by AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program. Exposure therapy, a type of psychological treatment that involves exposure to a feared object or context without any danger to help overcome anxiety, has the strongest evidence for improving PTSD symptoms. Other psychological therapies that improve PTSD symptoms include cognitive processing therapy, cognitive therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy-mixed therapies, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and narrative exposure therapy. 

Cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy based on the concept that the way we think about things affects how we feel emotionally. Pharmacological treatments that improve PTSD symptoms include fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, topiramate and venlafaxine. Paroxetine and venlafaxine may have other benefits including achieving remission and improving depression symptoms and functional impairment. PTSD is a mental disorder that may develop following exposure to a traumatic event such as military combat, motor vehicle collisions, violent personal assault, or natural or human-caused disasters.

People with PTSD suffer decreased role functioning and many other adverse life-course consequences, including job loss, familial discord, reduced educational attainment, and decreased work earnings and marriage attainment. Although the evidence supports the effectiveness of several types of psychological and drug treatments for PTSD, clinical uncertainty exists about what treatment to select for individual patients. Practical considerations, such as availability of psychological treatments and patient preferences, may guide treatment decisions. 

These findings and others can be found in the research review Psychological and Pharmacological Treatments for Adults With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at http://go.usa.gov/TBeB.

Current as of May 2013
Internet Citation: Several psychological and drug treatments appear effective for improving outcomes for adults with posttraumatic stress disorder: Mental Health. May 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/13may/0513RA17.html