Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is prevalent among millions of veterans across the country. 2.3 million veterans have PTSD from Iraq and Afghanistan alone; millions more who served in other wars suffer from this disorder as well. Treatment is essential for these vets to integrate back into normal life. PTSD treatments differ depending on the veteran. However, here are three of the most common treatment plans for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Talk therapy is the most common PTSD treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a psychotherapy that systematically aims to influence or change emotions that are dysfunctional due to PTSD. It is a goal-oriented system that has been successful in treating PTSD symptoms such as: anxiety, depression, mood disruptions, and substance abuse. Most recently, studies have shown that talk therapy actually changes the biological factors of the brain that are affected by PTSD. One study in particular published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that talk therapy changes gene expression and brain structure which allows for psychiatric improvement. This PTSD treatment aims to alter these biological factors and reduce the symptoms.
Animal therapy aims not to change the biological factors of a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but to tame the symptoms and ease them back into normal life. Service/Emotional Support dogs become companions to veterans helping them break their fears and anxiety. These dogs give love, support and companionship to their owners in situations that may otherwise be uncomfortable or even impossible. They help the veterans to relieve stress and feel safe. Service and emotional support dogs can accompany their owners in public to help them conquer crowds of people or help them to not be alone. The safety that comes with having a dog at your side allows the veterans to feel less anxiety as they do normal tasks such as grocery shopping or flying on planes. One veteran said on KPLCTv, “Going to Wal-Mart is just a horrible ordeal. It makes me stressful, angry, upset, and if I can have to dog there with me, I can pet him, and it kind of grounds me.” This form of PTSD treatment allows the veteran to feel better day to day without changing their biological make-up.
PTSD Treatment: Medication
Medication as a form of PTSD treatment is much less recommended than cognitive behavioral therapy; however, some still prefer medication. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the only approved medication for PTSD in general. They address the biological component of the veteran. Their main purpose; however, is to control 3 symptoms:
1. Re-experiencing: For example, nightmares or reoccurring memories of traumatic experiences.
2. Avoidance: Avoiding triggers that remind them of traumatic experiences such as places, sights, sounds, or smells that have anything to do with their experience.
3. Hyper-arousal: Constantly being ‘on guard’ or looking out for danger where there is none.
This form of PTSD treatment acts on the nuerotransmitters and hormones that allow these three symptoms to occur. Other medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers are sometimes given but they are less effective in PTSD treatment.
See your doctor to find the right treatment program for you.