Although the majority of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recover after early treatment, many others still suffer for years after a traumatic event despite early clinical interventions, a study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has shown. 

Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center evaluated several groups of non-military individuals suffering from PTSD (N=232) over a 12-week period. All study participants received either prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) therapy or a placebo 1 month after the traumatic event. They were reassessed at Months 5 and 36. 

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The patient groups receiving prolonged exposure and cognitive therapy demonstrated significant decrease in symptoms by 5 months, which was 61% better than the other groups. Their symptoms also remained low for 3 years but the other groups, including those who declined treatment, expressed the same level of symptoms by 3 years. Researchers were able to conclude that early-prolonged exposure and cognitive therapy may have significantly reduced the time to recovery but it did not reduce a 3-year prevalence of PTSD. 

Findings from the study highlight that “individuals continually expressing initial PTSD symptoms, and who are resistant to early treatment, should be the focus of future research.” Arieh Y. Shalev, MD, added that researchers need to find new strategies to identify these individuals, increase early treatment responses, find find new ways to decrease the long-term burden of PTSD.

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