Treatment Options: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Posted in: Clinical Trials

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that develops in some people as a reaction to exposure to an event involving actual or perceived great bodily harm or death.

Examples of events that can lead to the development of PTSD include, but are not limited to the following:

  • – Involvement in military combat,
  • – Surviving a terrorist attack,
  • – Being involved in a serious accident or natural disaster,
  • – Exposure to sexual assault or prolonged psychological or physical abuse, or
  • – As a result of a sudden and major emotional loss.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not new. It has actually been around for a long time.  It just wasn’t called PTSD.  The psychological symptoms we now commonly associate with post-traumatic stress were first recognized in soldier serving in combat during the First World War where it was referred to as “shell shock”. Beginning during World War II and continuing through the Korean and Vietnam wars, it was referred to as “battle fatigue” or “combat stress reaction”.  In 1980, it was formally recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and took on the label that is used to this day – post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, “the characteristic symptoms resulting from the exposure to extreme trauma include persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event, persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, numbing of general responsiveness and persistent symptoms of increased arousal.  The full symptom picture must be present for more than one month and the disturbance must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

There area number of effective approaches to the treatment of PTSD.  Most professionals in the field of behavioral medicine recommend first and foremost, some form of talk therapy or counseling, such as exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, as a means of helping the affected individuals to come to terms with the cause(s) of the problems they are experiencing  There are also a number of medications that are used alone or in concert with behavioral therapy to manage the symptomatology of post-traumatic stress. The most common class of medications used is antidepressants- specifically those comprising the class of antidepressants known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs.  Examples of medications in this drug class include paroxetine (Paxil and Seroxal), sertraline (Zoloft), mirtazapine (Remeron), amitriptyline (Elavil) and phenelzine (Nardil and Nardelzine).  Of these, however, only paroxetine and sertraline are actually approved for their use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for the treatment of post-traumatic stress. Other classes of medications (e.g., mood stabilizers and a typical antipsychotics) are sometimes prescribed, but the results have been mixed.  Nonetheless, they may prove useful in certain patients presenting with specific comorbid symptomatology. The long and short of it is that it may take more than one try to find the right drug, dose or combination of drugs alone or in concert with talk therapy that will provide the level of relief a specific patient requires.

The above clearly points to the need for further research as a means of identifying other more effective and reliable medications to treat this disorder.  Because of the treatment challenges this disorder presents, due in larger measure to the heterogeneity of the patient population, it is not surprising that it is an area for which there is currently a great deal of ongoing medical research currently being conducted.  To find out what kinds of clinical research studies are being conducted and where within your area, consider consulting with your physician and/or conducting a search of the web.  If you live within the New York City Metropolitan Area, consider searching the web using such keyword search terms as Post-Traumatic Stress Treatments NYC or Clinical Trials Post-Traumatic Stress NYC.  You can even further refine your search to specific boroughs, such as Brooklyn to see if there are trials being conducted in one of these areas.

In conclusion, there is no reason to suffer alone.  There is help out there. All you need to do is look and act on what you learn.


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