POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD): Latest research and treatment
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in response to a traumatic experience, for example, combat; sexual or physical abuse inflicted by a partner, parent, other relative or a stranger; being involved in a natural disaster or accident; street violence etc. Symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, hypervigilance, nightmares, flashbacks and avoidant behaviour. Depression is common in people with PTSD, and there is an increased risk of suicide when depression and PTSD are present together (2).
Older war veterans diagnosed with PTSD have been found to have memory impairment in a number of memory tests (5). There have been numerous studies into the effects of general stress on memory in adults, and a recent study found that even children as young as 8 – 10 years of age show memory problems when placed under stress. The children also showed increased cortisol levels and a decrease in mood (7).
There is a higher incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). In fact, a study at the University of Washington has found that people with a history of PTSD were 8 times more likely to have CFS (1).
International guidelines promote cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and specifically Exposure-based Therapy, for the treatment of combat-related PTSD (3). Exposure-based therapy is where the therapist repeatedly exposes the client to the trauma related thoughts, feelings and situations that the client has been avoiding due to the distress they cause. It can be used for other trauma-related PTSD as well as where there is avoidance of situations that cause distress. For example, a person who has experienced sexual abuse may be avoiding relationships with others. Over time, the client has fewer negative thoughts about the trauma and gains more control over his or her life. Exposure therapy can be used in real world practice (“in vivo”) or by talking through the trauma with the therapist (“imaginal exposure”).
Substance abuse is common in people experiencing PTSD, and exposure therapy has been found to be effective in clients who are still actively abusing alcohol and marijuana. Previously, it was thought that a substance abuser had to be free from substance use before getting exposure therapy. It is now thought that therapy to decrease the trauma symptoms can help people cope better when later detoxing from substances (6).
Hypnotherapy may have some benefit in the treatment of PTSD as well. It can be used as a treatment for PTSD when used in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches including Mindfulness and Acceptance based therapies (4).
To make an appointment with one of our psychologists for treatment of PTSD, general stress, anxiety, depression, sexual or other abuse, childhood trauma, or substance use/addictions, please call The Mind Centre on 07 5608 4148 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org You can also contact us through our Contact Us page.
1. Dansie, E.J, Heppner, P., Furberg, H., Goldberg, J., Buchwald, D., et al. (2012) The comorbidity of self-reported chronic fatigue syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic symptoms. Psychosomatics: Journal of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry 53.3: 250-257
2. Dobry, Y., Sher, L. (2012) Post-traumatic stress disorder, associated medical illnesses, and suicidal behaviour: Plenty of room for new research. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 46.7: 684
3.Lee, E.A.D (2012) Complex contribution of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder to veteran suicide: Facing an increasing challenge. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care 48.2: 108-115
4. Lynn, S.J., Malakataris, A.,Condon, L., Maxwell, R., Cleere, C. (2012) Post-traumatic stress disorder: Cognitive hypnotherapy, mindfulness, and acceptance-based treatment approaches. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 54.4: 311-330
5. Mackin, R.S., Lesselyong, J.A., Yaffe, K. (2012) Pattern of cognitive impairment in older veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder evaluated at a memory disorders clinic. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 27.6: 637-642
6. Souza, T.M., Spates, C.R., Rankin, C. (2012) Prolonged exposure to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in an active substance abuser. Mental Health and Substance Use 5.2: 102-114
7. Quesada, A.A., Wiemers, U.S., Schoofs, D., Wolf, O.T. (2012) Psychosocial stress exposure impairs memory retrieval in children, Psychoneuroendocrinology 37.1: 125-136