Can Early Intervention Stop PTSD?

Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms may be reduced by early intervention programs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) causes difficulty for thousands of trauma victims every year. Typically symptoms are treated as they arise, but new research may help nip PTSD in the bud.

According to a new study, an early intervention program may reduce or prevent PTSD symptoms.

The program consists of a psychiatric evaluation and follow-up treatment program immediately after a traumatic event.

"Talk to your psychiatrist about traumatic events."

"PTSD is a major public health concern," says Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Emory University. "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."

The researchers found 137 patients who had recently suffered a traumatic event and were willing to participate in the study in the emergency room of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA. Participants were victims of traumas such as rape, car accidents and shootings.

Half of participants were asked to describe their trauma in detail. The description was recorded and participants were asked to listen to the recording every day.

Additionally, they spoke with a therapist three times for one hour sessions over three weeks following the traumatic event.

The other half of participants received a mental health assessment but did not receive intervention treatment.

All participants received follow-up assessments four and twelve weeks after the trauma. Researchers used the PTSD Symptom Scale Interview (PSS-I) to assess PTSD symptoms.

Those who were involved with the intervention program showed significantly fewer PTSD symptoms than those who did not.

While more research is needed, the team believes that this study can help develop intervention programs that can reduce and eliminate the symptoms of PTSD.

"If we know what to do, then we can train emergency workers to intervene with patients on a large scale. In addition to being implemented in the emergency room, it can help on the battlefield, in natural disasters, or after criminal assaults," adds Rothbaum.

This study was published in the July 2012 edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Emory Center for Injury Control, and the Center for Disease Control. The authors report no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 25, 2012
Last Updated:
February 15, 2013