The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT), medications, or both. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another.

It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health care professional who is experienced with PTSD. Some people will need to try different treatments to find what works for their symptoms.

Exposure therapy. This therapy helps people face and control their fear by exposing them to the trauma they experienced in a safe way. It uses mental imagery, writing, or visits to the place where the event happened. The therapist uses these tools to help people with PTSD cope with their feelings.

Cognitive restructuring. This therapy helps people make sense of the bad memories. Sometimes people remember the event differently than how it happened. They may feel guilt or shame about what is not their fault. The therapist helps people with PTSD look at what happened in a realistic way.

Stress inoculation training. This therapy tries to reduce PTSD symptoms by teaching a person how to reduce anxiety. Like cognitive restructuring, this treatment helps people look at their memories in a healthy way.

Virtual reality treatment consists of custom virtual environments that have been carefully designed to support exposure therapy of anxiety disorders. The treatment involves exposing the person with PTSD to a virtual environment that contains the feared situation, instead of taking the patient into the actual environment or having the patient imagine the traumatic situation.       

The therapist controls the virtual environment through a computer keyboard, ensuring full control of the exposure and the ability manipulate situations to best suit the person within the confines of a therapist's office.

Medications commonly used to treat PTSD are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.

Find out more about treatment.

Updated August 2015