Is There a Medication That Can Help Complex PTSD?
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Clinically Reviewed 
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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition caused by traumatic events. The traumas associated with PTSD vary from person to person. PTSD can develop after a single traumatic event or a series of traumatic occurrences. Complex PTSD (CPTSD) is a term reserved for PTSD caused by chronic trauma. Instead of one event, someone with complex PTSD may have endured years of traumatic experiences. People in many different age demographics can have complex PTSD. For college students, complex PTSD tends to arise from a history of childhood trauma. If you are a college student with complex PTSD, it is important to find treatment that can help you. Medication and psychotherapy are two kinds of treatment that can be instrumental in helping you manage your symptoms and process your trauma.

Common medications used for treating complex PTSD

  • SSRIs — SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are among the most common PTSD medications. SSRIs are used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, from PTSD to major depressive disorder (MDD). SSRIs function to prevent your brain from reabsorbing serotonin, thus increasing the amount of serotonin available. Serotonin is one of your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Having a healthy level of serotonin is key to normal mood regulation. If you have complex PTSD, you may experience major mood fluctuations. SSRIs can help reduce your mood shifts and other symptoms by increasing your serotonin levels.
  • SNRIs — SNRI is short for serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Like SSRIs, SNRIs affect the levels of your neurotransmitter chemicals. In addition to affecting serotonin, though, SNRIs also manage the amount of norepinephrine available to your brain. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that plays a pivotal role in your body’s fight-or-flight response. If your norepinephrine is off balance, you may experience heightened anxiety and blood pressure. SNRIs can help, which is why they are commonly prescribed for people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorders. SNRIs can also help the anxiety-related symptoms of complex PTSD. If you experience persistent anxiety and panic attacks due to your CPTSD, SNRIs may be able to help.
  • Prazosin — Prazosin is an antihypertensive. Antihypertensives are generally used to address high blood pressure, but they can also help with CPTSD symptoms. One study with prazosin shows that most clients experience some relief from their symptoms. Prazosin can be especially helpful in reducing sleep-related symptoms such as chronic nightmares. If you experience insomnia, nightmares or sleepwalking, prazosin might be a good choice.
  • Atypical antipsychotics — Atypical antipsychotics are a set of medications also known as second-generation antipsychotics due to their relatively recent introduction into the field of psychiatry. Each atypical antipsychotic is different, but they share a few common attributes. One major benefit of these medications is their lower risk for adverse side effects compared to other medications. In many cases, they are used in conjunction with other forms of treatment such as psychotherapy.

Process-based therapy and its benefits

Considering therapy to address your complex PTSD? Process-based therapy (PBT) can be a great option. PBT is a unique, effective approach to mental health treatment that can address a wide range of conditions. You can think of PBT as a fully personalized framework using the most effective aspects of evidence-based modalities, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and cognitive processing therapy (CPT) as well as compassion-based and somatic therapies, to target the drivers behind mental health disorders and symptoms.

If you are taking medication for your complex PTSD, PBT can be a great complementary therapy. Due to its comprehensive approach, PBT can also work well on its own. Unlike some other forms of treatment, PBT is designed to help clients achieve their long-term mental health goals. This means addressing root issues to help you work toward lasting relief from your symptoms. PBT is a holistic form of therapy that addresses the whole person.

One way PBT can help is by equipping you with effective coping strategies. Working one-on-one with your therapist, you can discover and practice coping techniques that work well for you. Reliable, effective coping techniques can be crucial for managing the symptoms of complex PTSD. By mastering a set of new coping strategies, you can work to keep your symptoms under control.

Find medications and other treatments that work for you with Lightfully U

Are you looking for an effective treatment option for your complex PTSD? You can find a range of solutions at Lightfully U. The treatment we offer is evidence based, data driven and administered by dedicated mental health experts. We can work with you to develop a tailored treatment plan that meets your needs and helps you make strides toward lasting wellness.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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