Effective treatments for PTSD are available. Medication, either alone or in combination with counselling, can help.
Medication for PTSD – what you need to know
The medications usually used to treat PTSD are antidepressants. Even if you don’t have depression, antidepressants can help make feelings associated with trauma more manageable. There are different kinds of antidepressants, but research has shown that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most likely to help.
Before you start taking medication, you should be given information about possible side effects. It is also important to understand what you might experience if you stop taking medication suddenly, forget to take a tablet, or reduce the amount you are taking. Remember that antidepressants take a few weeks to reach their full effect, so do not expect immediate results.
If antidepressants are working, it is recommended that you take them for at least 12 months. After this period of time, you can stop by gradually reducing the dose. This should only be done after discussion with your GP, and should be carefully monitored.
Remember, not all medication works in the same way for everybody. If a particular type of medication is not working for you, your doctor may ask you to try another type, increase the dose, or suggest that you try counselling.
What can I ask my GP about medication?
- How does this medication work?
- What can I expect to feel like if it works?
- Does it have any side effects and how long will they last for?
- How long will it take before I start to feel better?
- How long will I have to take it?
- What do I do if I forget to take my medication?
- When it’s time, how do I go about stopping the medication?
- What will happen when I stop taking it?
What if I don’t feel better when I expect to?
Some people with PTSD improve quickly, while others take more time to get better. PTSD can also feel manageable for a while, but worsen at times of stress or when a particularly strong reminder of the trauma triggers a reaction.
Sometimes things that happen during treatment can get in the way of your recovery, such as not receiving enough information about what to expect or not feeling comfortable with your GP or counsellor. It takes time to develop trust in someone, but if you continue to feel uncomfortable, discuss it with the person you are seeing or give yourself permission to look for the right person to provide you with help. Feeling overwhelmed by emotions during treatment can also get in the way of recovery. Let the person treating you know how you feel and talk with them about slowing down the process.
What can I ask my GP or counsellor if treatment isn’t helping?
If you’re not sure if treatment is helping you, ask your GP or counsellor these questions:
- My sleep, nightmares, mood,… aren’t improving. What else can we do?
- I had expected to feel better. Can we talk about my progress?
- Can we talk about other treatments? What else is available?
- Can you give me some strategies to help me to manage my sleep better (or panic attacks,…)?