Like so many other things, people have individual differences in how they respond to different treatments. Some people respond best to psychotherapy, others to medications, and still others to both.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on ways of thinking and reacting to triggers for the PTSD symptoms and can help the individual to control these symptoms. I am going to copy three types that can be used from the NIMH site:
- "exposure therapy — uses mental imagery, writing, or visiting the scene of a trauma to help survivors face and gain control of overwhelming fear and distress
- cognitive restructuring — encourages survivors to talk about upsetting (often incorrect) thoughts about the trauma, question those thoughts, and replace them with more balanced and correct ones.
- stress inoculation training — teaches anxiety reduction techniques and coping skills to reduce PTSD symptoms, and helps correct inaccurate thoughts related to the trauma.”
There are also a few medications that can be used to treat PTSD. Prazosin (chemical structure is the image above) is a somewhat common treatment that blocks the alpha receptor subtype for norepinephrine. We know that norepinephrine can activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and so the alpha receptors, which are activated by norepinephrine, promote amygdalar activity and the fear response. Prazosin, basically, can block this. A newer one of the medications that can be used is Propranolol or beta blockers which can be given soon after a traumatic event to hopefully prevent PTSD. Beta blockers, which block the beta receptor type for norepinephrine, are showing some success at preventing or reducing PTSD. Please note that these explanations are very simplified, but they can give you the general idea.