Discover treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder
WPS Health Solutions shares how millions of people deal with diagnosis each year

MADISON, Wis.—Feb. 15, 2023—Post-traumatic stress (PTS) can often be a result of exposure to severe trauma. It’s a normal response to a traumatic event. But sometimes, the effects of PTS are more extreme, and symptoms won’t go away on their own. That’s when it becomes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About six out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and 12 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed in a given year.

What are some of the treatment options for PTSD?

“There are a variety of treatment options for PTSD. Examples include talk therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes, ” according to Dr. Ken Robbins, WPS Medical Director of Behavioral Health. “When considering options for treatment, talk therapy or psychotherapy—which involve talking with a professional about the experience and symptoms—is generally the first step.”

There are a few different types of therapy that are effective for treating PTSD, according to the American Psychological Association. These include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT involves discussing the trauma and your symptoms, and helping you implement better thought and behavioral patterns.
  • Exposure therapy. This type of therapy involves talking through the trauma and working through it in an environment that is safe and nurturing. It allows you to fully process the experience and take time to examine it however you need.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. This is an interactive therapy that involves moving your eyes from side-to-side while recalling the traumatic events, so that you can process the events outside of the strong emotions that are attached to them.

In addition to therapy, medication is another great option available. There are a wide variety of options people can discuss with their doctor. 

Lifestyle changes and self-care practices are another important component of managing your symptoms. There are many different avenues you could take, but some of them might include:

  • Learning about PTSD to better understand the symptoms
  • Meditating
  • Exercising
  • Journaling
  • Attending a support group
  • Having a strong social network
  • Reducing negative coping mechanisms

Beyond just treatment—how can I help myself?

One of the hardest things people are forced to do sometimes is make the choice to recognize that they need help and to try to take that first step. It’s important to remember that while therapy and treatments take time, they are scientifically proven to be a contributor to getting better.

To help yourself while pursuing other options for treatment:

  • Talk with your doctor regularly about your treatment and other options.
  • Engage in physical exercise to help reduce stress.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Try to spend time with people you care about.
  • Expect a gradual change in your symptoms, not immediate.
  • Identify coping mechanisms to help yourself in times of crisis. 

Why do some develop PTSD and others do not?

It’s important to remember that not everyone who lives through a traumatic event will develop PTSD. In fact, most will not. 

There’s a variety of factors as to why a person will or won’t develop PTSD. Some of them are listed below. Risk factors are elements that will likely further develop PTSD, while resilience factors are components that help reduce the risk.

Some factors that increase the risk include:

  • Living through dangerous events and traumas (for example, combat veterans).
  • Getting injured or seeing another loved one hurt.
  • Childhood trauma.
  • Having little or no social support.
  • Dealing with extreme stress around the event.
  • Having a prior history of mental illness.

Some factors that promote resilience include:

  • Seeking and receiving help from others.
  • Learning to feel confident about yourself and your actions.
  • Having positive coping mechanisms and ways to “get through things.”
  • Being able to act and respond effectively, despite being afraid.

When should I seek help?

If you are having post-traumatic stress reactions that are lasting for longer than a month, or are severe, or if your daily life is being disrupted, you should seek professional help to see if you may have PTSD. Getting treatment as soon as possible can prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.

Some other ways to get help include:

  • Reach out to a close friend or a loved one.
  • Contact a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call or text 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. There is also a chat service through this same lifeline.
  • Make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional.

If you feel like you are suicidal or in immediate danger, get help right away. Call 988.

Note: This information is not intended to be medical advice.