Trauma survivors who receive critical incident stress debriefing as soon as possible after the event have the best prognosis for full recovery. For patients who devel op full-blown PTSD, a combination of peer-group meetings and individual psychotherapy are often effective. Treatment may require several years, however, and the patient is likely to experience relapses.
There are no studies of untreated PTSD, but long-term studies of patients with delayed-reaction PTSD or delayed diagnosis of the disorder indicate that treatment of patients in these groups is much more difficult and complicated.
In some patients, PTSD becomes a chronic mental disorder that can persist for decades, or the remainder of the patient's life. Patients with chronic PTSD often have a cyclical history of symptom remissions and relapses. This group has the poorest prognosis for recovery; some patients do not respond to any of the currently available treatments for PTSD.
Some forms of trauma, such as natural disasters and accidents, can never be completely eliminated from human life. Traumas caused by human intention would require major social changes to reduce their frequency and severity, but given the increasing prevalence of PTSD around the world, these long-term changes are worth the effort. In the short term, educating people—particularly those in the helping professions—about the signs of critical incident stress may prevent some cases of exposure to trauma from developing into full-blown PTSD.
See also Anxiety reduction techniques; Bodywork therapies; Creative therapies; Exposure treatment; Somatization and Somatoform disorders
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Beers, Mark H., M.D., and Robert Berkow, M.D., eds. "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder." In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 17th edition. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1999. Herman, Judith, M.D. Trauma and Recovery. 2nd ed., revised.
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