Early treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder accelerates recovery, but does not sustain it
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Over a 12-week period, researchers looked at several groups of non-military individuals suffering from PTSD (a total study cohort of 232 individuals) after a single traumatic event. All participants received either prolonged exposure therapy; cognitive therapy; treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); or a placebo pill one month after the traumatic event. They also followed individuals who declined treatment. All were reassessed at five months and at 36 months.
While the groups receiving prolonged exposure and cognitive therapy showed a significant reduction of symptoms by five months (61% better than the other groups), and their symptoms remained low for three years, the other groups, including those who declined treatment, reached the same level of low symptoms by three years. In that sense, early-prolonged exposure and cognitive therapy significantly shortened the time to recovery, but did not reduce a three-year prevalence of PTSD.