Is PTSD Curable?
Like most mental illnesses, PTSD is not strictly curable. This condition is caused by trauma and causes serious symptoms that make normal functioning challenging or impossible. Treatment with special types of therapy and sometimes medication can make a big difference, but it is not a cure. But even though patients with PTSD are not cured, they can improve significantly or even see all of their symptoms resolve. Professional treatment is essential to recover from PTSD.
PTSD is a condition that is caused by traumatic experiences. It can be debilitating and causes symptoms that persist for months or even years. While treatment is always evolving and looks different for everyone, therapy and medications can help most patients improve symptoms and functioning. There is no cure for PTSD, but some people will see a complete resolution of symptoms with proper treatment. Even those who do not, generally see significant improvements and a much better quality of life.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition that is caused by experiencing trauma. Not everyone who goes through something traumatic will develop this condition, but for those who do the symptoms can be debilitating and long-lasting. PTSD causes recurring memories and flashbacks, nightmares, lack of interest of activities, avoidance of any reminders of trauma, isolation and detachment, and significant impairment in normal activities and functioning.
Not everyone who goes through trauma will develop PTSD, but some groups who have higher rates include veterans of combat service in the military, first responders, victims of sexual assault, and women. Treatment for PTSD is essential—this is not a condition that will resolve on its own. People with PTSD require professional support, especially therapy, to see improvements.
Treatment for PTSD
The main focus of treatment for PTSD is therapy, but medications are often a helpful component of an overall plan. Patients with PTSD benefit from specialized types of therapy, including trauma-focused behavioral therapies and exposure therapies. These force the patient to face traumatic memories but also give them practical tools to use to cope with these memories.
- Behavioral therapies. These types of therapies are designed to help the patient change negative behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Patients face and reframe traumatic experiences and learn healthy ways of coping with the memories.
- Exposure therapy. The purpose of this kind of therapy is to face the difficult, traumatic memories head-on instead of avoiding them. It allows patients to process them in a safe, constructive environment.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR uses eye movements, guided by the therapist, to help reframe and process traumatic memories.
- Narrative exposure therapy. Working with a therapist, a patient uses writing exercises and storytelling to process trauma.
In addition to therapy, some patients with PTSD may get some relief from medication. Medication alone is not adequate treatment for PTSD, but it can be a useful supplement. The most common types of medications used for PTSD are antidepressants. These drugs help improve mood, decrease anxiety, and make it easier to concentrate and even sleep. Anti-anxiety medications may also be used but less often. A newer drug called prazosin may help minimize or stop nightmares.
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Recovery from PTSD
These treatment measures, along with positive interactions with friends, support groups, healthy lifestyle choices, good medical care, and other factors can help most people living with PTSD feel better. It takes a commitment to the treatment process, which can be difficult because of the necessity of facing frightening memories, but ongoing professional support can lead to recovery.
Mental health professionals do not say that someone with PTSD is cured, because there is always a possibility that symptoms will return or that there will be more trauma or stress in a patient’s life. However, it is possible that patients with PTSD can experience a total resolution of symptoms and go back to living a normal life.
Even for those patients who do not see their symptoms completely disappear, life is much better with treatment. Symptoms improve, normal functioning can be nearly entirely restored, and relationships with friends and family can be repaired. There is every hope that someone with PTSD who seeks and commits to treatment will recover and enjoy a much better quality of life. If you or someone you care about is struggling with PTSD, reach out and find mental health experts who can provide good care and treatment.