A recent study conducted at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ANCP) has revealed that psychotherapy helps in treating the post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) in early stages.
The research, led by Arieh Shalev, Chair of the Department of sychiatry and founding Director of the Center for Traumatic Stress at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, included 248 adults with early symptoms of PTSD pursuing a traumatic event that had occurred not more than four weeks earlier.
The aim was to determine which forms of treatment given soon after the traumatic event can prevent the development of chronic PTSD.
PTSD cannot be diagnosed until four weeks after a traumatic event.
Nevertheless, symptoms that occur before four weeks often persist, and early action may prevent trauma-related suffering later.
The researchers treated the patients for 12 weeks with cognitive therapy (which helps people change unproductive or harmful thought patterns), cognitive behavioural therapy (which helps densensitize patients' upsetting reactions to traumatic memories), an antidepressant (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) known to be helpful in treating chronic PTSD, placebo or no intervention at all.
Shalev said that cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy worked well on these patients.
"We found that cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy worked well on these patients, whose symptoms and duration of PTSD were compared at the end of 3 months of intervention," said Shalev.
"At that time, their symptoms were significantly less severe than in patients who were treated with medication, placebo, or no treatment at all," he added.
Shalev also said though antidepressants did not work during the early post-trauma period, it is important to continue exploration of pharmacological interventions for early treatment of PTSD.
The research suggested that both pharmacotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy could be partially effective for PTSD when given three months or more after a traumatic event.
The results indicate that it is best for survivors to be treated as early as possible.
The research was presented at the annual ACNP meeting.