Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may require short and long-term treatment. Various therapy modalities and, in some cases, medication are used to manage and treat symptoms. Often medication is prescribed in addition to individual therapy.

If you're suffering from PTSD, know that treatment can help you get your life back.

How Is Therapy Used to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

Several types of therapy may teach skills and techniques to better manage or cope with stress. Therapy can help individuals understand specific causes and triggers of PTSD symptoms. This awareness will help your therapist identify strategies to help patients return to activities or situations they previously avoided.

Individual therapy sessions are conducted by a licensed specialist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most common methods used by therapists and counselors. CBT specifically targets a person's thoughts and physical symptoms, including avoidance. For individuals with PTSD, exposure therapy may also be beneficial. Exposure therapy involves the gradual exposure to the object, place, or situation that triggers anxiety. The gradual exposure promotes confidence and helps individuals manage the situation and symptoms of fear, anxiety, or panic.

Which Medications are Prescribed to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

For some individuals, medication may help manage PTSD symptoms. Depending on a person's symptoms, many of the same medications used to treat anxiety disorders or depression may be prescribed.

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These drugs are considered safer and generally cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. These are some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), sertraline (Zoloft), and vilazodone (Viibryd).
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): These are among the newer types of antidepressants. Examples include duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla), and levomilnacipran (Fetzima).
  • Buspirone: An anti-anxiety medication that may be used on an ongoing basis. It typically takes up to a several weeks to become fully effective.
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs are typically prescribed when other drugs haven’t worked because they have serious side effects and require a strict diet. Examples include tranylcypromine (Parnate), phenelzine (Nardil), and isocarboxazid (Marplan).

What are the Risks of Abruptly Stopping Medication?

If your doctor has prescribed a medication for treatment of PTSD, it’s crucial you take the medication as directed. Do not stop taking the medication without first consulting your physician. Abruptly stopping your medication could suddenly worsen your symptoms or cause other side effects. If you feel like your medication is doing more harm than good or if you’re experiencing negative side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she can work with you to safely change your medication.

Are Antidepressants Safe During Pregnancy?

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, tell your doctor before starting an antidepressant. Some antidepressants may pose a risk to your child. If you’re taking an antidepressant and become pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk with your doctor.

What are the Side Effects of Antidepressants?

Most antidepressants are safe, however the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all antidepressants to carry a black box warning, the strictest warning for prescriptions. In some cases, patients, especially children, teenagers, and adults under 25, may have an increase in suicidal thoughts immediately after starting an antidepressant or changing the dose. Typically, suicidal thoughts will subside as the body adjusts to the medication. Keep in mind that antidepressants are more likely to reduce suicide risk long term.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts while taking an antidepressant, please seek help. You can contact your doctor or emergency help, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a behavioral health specialist or for more information, please call 



MedStar Harbor Hospital
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225