APR 12, 2016 3:44 PM PDT

Early PTSD Treatment Quickens Recovery, But Won't Sustain It

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet
About eight million Americans suffer PTSD each year
Arieh Y. Shalev, MD Making it through a deeply distressing or disturbing experience is painful, complicated, and hard to do. Yet, most people go through a traumatic experience at some point in their lives, and the large majority of those people make it through the trauma and put it behind them. A smaller percentage of people can’t leave the experience behind, no matter how much they want to.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is “a whole-body tragedy,” according to psychotherapist Susan Pease Banitt in her book “The Trauma Tool Kit.” It is “an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” According to the NIH, there are four types of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood. Re-experiencing symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. Avoidance symptoms include feeling emotionally numb, having trouble remembering dangerous events, staying away from places that remind the person of the traumatic experience. Arousal and reactivity symptoms include feeling constantly “on edge,” having trouble sleeping, and being startled easily. Lastly, cognition and mood symptoms include having negative thoughts about oneself, having distorted feelings like guilt, and losing interest in once enjoyable activities. 

About eight million Americans suffer PTSD each year; civilian and military population included. “We assume that people living in an otherwise stable environment have better conditions for long-term recovery than individuals who experience lengthy wars or live in a constant state of violence,” said NYU Langone Medical Center psychiatry professor Arieh Y. Shalev, in a press statement. "This might explain part of their spontaneous recovery without initial treatment."

However, new research shows that early treatment for post-traumatic stress accelerates recovery, but it does not sustain it. 

For this study, researchers examined 232 non-military individuals suffering from PTSD after experiencing a single traumatic event. The researchers treated each participant, one month after the traumatic event, using either prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or a placebo pill. The researchers also tracked the participants who declined treatment. 
 

The scientists reassessed the patients at 5 months and at 3 years. They found that patients in the prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive therapy groups experienced significantly less symptoms by 5 months (61 percent better than other groups). Their symptoms didn’t go away, but remained low for three years. The SSRI, placebo, and declined-treatment groups reached the same low level of symptoms by the three-year mark. Thus, early prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive therapy significantly shortened the time to recover. However, those therapies did not reduce the overall three-year prevalence of PTSD.

“What this study tells us, at its core, is that there is a significant public health challenge ahead. Individuals continually expressing initial PTSD symptoms, and who are resistant to early treatment, should be the focus of future research," Shalev said. "They are the ones who remain chronically distressed and disabled, and require care long after their traumatic incident. We need to find ways to identify these subjects, increase the early favorable responses to existing treatment, and find new ways to reduce the long-term burden of PTSD.”

The research was published online on April 12, 2016, in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
 
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
You May Also Like
DEC 27, 2020
Immunology
A Fatty Diet can be Fuel for Tumor Growth!
DEC 27, 2020
A Fatty Diet can be Fuel for Tumor Growth!
Obesity is a significant problem in our societies with increasing the risk for many diseases, including cancer. Can ...
JAN 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Common Brain Disorder Has a Genetic Influence
JAN 01, 2021
Common Brain Disorder Has a Genetic Influence
It's thought that as many as one in one hundred people are born with a brain disorder known as Chiari 1 malformation, bu ...
JAN 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Good Results From Trial of CAR T Cell Therapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
JAN 04, 2021
Good Results From Trial of CAR T Cell Therapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Researchers have reported positive results from a phase 2 clinical trial of a CAR T cell therapy called axicabtagene cil ...
JAN 14, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Tip of the Iceberg: Inaccuracies in Prostate Cancer Diagnostics
JAN 14, 2021
Tip of the Iceberg: Inaccuracies in Prostate Cancer Diagnostics
  Only 10 percent of icebergs are visible on the surface of the water; the remaining 90 percent remains submerged. ...
JAN 17, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
How a Nutrient Can Aid in Infection Prevention
JAN 17, 2021
How a Nutrient Can Aid in Infection Prevention
Antibiotic-resistant microbes are considered to be a serious threat to public health, one of many reasons why it's impor ...
JAN 17, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
New Insights Into Kabuki Syndrome
JAN 17, 2021
New Insights Into Kabuki Syndrome
Kabuki syndrome is a rare multisystemic disorder that causes delays in growth, distinctive facial features, short statur ...
Loading Comments...