Health News: Speedy Intervention May Stop PTSD Before it Begins

For the first time, a behavioral intervention delivered to patients within hours of a traumatic event appears to be effective at reducing posttraumatic stress reactions (PTSR).

A study published online in the June 2012 journal, Biological Psychiatry, shows that a modified form of prolonged exposure therapy initiated within hours of a trauma reduces posttraumatic stress reactions and depression.

The patients were instructed to listen to recordings every day of themselves discussing their trauma. Therapists helped the patients look at obtrusive thoughts of guilt or responsibility, and taught them a brief breathing or relaxation technique and self care.

Rothbaum says that while many people may not have listened to the tape of their trauma every day, most reported listening to it at least a couple of times—enough to have a healing effect.

“PTSD is a major public health concern,” says Barbara Rothbaum, professor in the Emory’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “In so many people, what happens immediately after a traumatic event can make things worse or better. Right now, there are no accepted interventions delivered in the immediate aftermath of trauma.”