Most effective PTSD therapies are not being widely used, researchers find

April 11, 2013

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects nearly 8 million adults in any given year, federal statistics show. Fortunately, clinical research has identified certain psychological interventions that effectively ameliorate the symptoms of PTSD. But most people struggling with PTSD don't receive those treatments, according to a new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

In the report, internationally renowned trauma expert Edna Foa of the University of Pennsylvania and a team of distinguished psychological scientists review studies describing interventions that can effectively treat PTSD.

Foa, an Association for fellow, pioneered the use of prolonged (PE), in which patients approach—in both imaginary and real-life settings—situations, places, and people they have been avoiding. The repeated exposure to the perceived threat disconfirms individuals' expectations of experiencing harm and, over time, leads to a reduction in their fear. Foa authored the new report with Seth Gillihan of Haverford College in Pennsylvania and Richard Bryant of the University of in Sydney, Australia.

Over years of testing, PE and other forms of have proved highly effective in addressing the distress and dysfunctional problems that trauma victims experience. However, the majority of do not use such evidence-based treatments (EBTs) when working with patients suffering from PTSD, the researchers write.

Many clinicians believe that good psychotherapy should be individualized and should focus on the underlying causes of one's problems and symptoms. But studies show scant evidence that psychodynamic therapy—which focuses on such issues as difficult childhood relationship with parents—effectively eases PTSD symptoms, according to the report.

Foa and her colleagues say their findings are important given that traumatic events such as , terrorist attacks, and gun violence are on the rise.

Recent history offers prime examples of that trend. More than 273,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have sought treatment for over the past decade, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that at least one-third of residents in the path of Hurricane Katrina suffered some form of post-traumatic stress after the 2005 storm. And in the two months following last year's tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, more than 16 percent of Newtown, Connecticut's police force had missed work because of PTSD-related issues, according to news reports.

"Not counting traumatic events that are experienced by individuals as opposed to entire populations, the number of people who need help for their PTSD and related symptoms is mind boggling," Foa and her co-authors write.

"Thus PTSD treatment researchers are acutely aware of the tremendous need to disseminate effective treatments widely such that patients have access to them, and are also aware of the challenges to successfully meet this need."

The report, "Challenges and Successes in Dissemination of Evidence-Based Treatments for Posttraumatic Stress: Lessons Learned From Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD," is accompanied by an editorial from Bradley E. Karlin and Madhulika Agarwal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office in Washington, DC.

Explore further: Psychological therapies improve life for children with post-traumatic stress disorder

More information: The full report and the accompanying editorial are available free online at www.psychologicalscience.org/i … rnals/pspi/ptsd.html

Related Stories

Psychological therapies improve life for children with post-traumatic stress disorder

December 11, 2012
Children suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of traumatic events, including child abuse, may benefit from psychological therapies, according to a review published in The Cochrane Library. In the first ...

Scientists discover dissociative subtype of post-traumatic stress disorder

July 2, 2012
A recent study by Erika J. Wolf, PhD, and Principal Investigator Mark W. Miller, PhD, both from the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Department of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine ...

Researchers find novel drug target for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

September 5, 2011
A team of researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has identified a promising therapeutic target in the brain that could lead to the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is the first evidence of a ...

Recommended for you

To pick a great gift, it's better to give AND receive

July 28, 2017
If it's the thought that makes a gift count, here's a thought that can make your gift count extra: Get a little something for yourself.

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.