Learn More About PTSD Research Studies

What Are PTSD Research Studies?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can occur after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or dangerous event, such as war, sexual assault, or natural disaster. It is characterized by persistent symptoms, such as re-experiencing the event through flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma; hypervigilance and exaggerated startle response; negative changes in mood and thinking; alterations in behavior, such as bed-wetting, irritability, difficulty sleeping, or substance abuse; and increased numbing of emotions.

PTSD has been studied for many years, and many studies are underway. PTSD research studies are important to help us understand the nature of the disorder, its effects on individuals and groups, and how it is treated. The research gives us insights into the relevance and effectiveness of different treatment options for cases of varying severity by exploring whether certain medications or therapies successfully reduce symptoms like depression and anxiety or are just a placebo effect.

PTSD Research Studies

Some PTSD research studies are also aimed at discovering new treatment modalities for alleviating debilitating symptoms and finding possible ways to prevent PTSD from happening in the first place.

PTSD research studies have been conducted in various ways, but the most common is through animal testing. These studies aim to better understand the neurophysiological etiology of the disorder, determine potential targets for new pharmacotherapies, and screen drugs for treatment in humans.

Another type of PTSD research study involves patients who have suffered from symptoms of PTSD for an extended period. In these cases, researchers may want to see what happens when they treat the patient with different types of therapy or medication over time. Lastly, researchers also conduct PTSD research studies by observing people who have been exposed to traumatic events and then studying how their brains react to those events later on down the road.

Why Is PTSD Being Studied in Research Studies?

PTSD is being studied in research studies because it affects people of all ages and genders. 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one traumatic event at some point in their lives. In a given year, about 12 million adults in the US suffer from this crippling disorder.

Despite being so prevalent, PTSD is hard to treat because it has many causes and manifestations. It can be triggered by a single traumatic event or develop after repeated exposure to traumatic events. Symptoms usually start within one to three months of the traumatic event, but sometimes it may take years to appear.

PTSD dramatically impacts the lives of those suffering from it, affecting how they think, feel, and act. It is a serious mental health issue and can lead to other kinds of problems, like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

The prevalence of this condition is growing rapidly, particularly in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, with some estimates suggesting that over 20% of all soldiers who served in these countries have developed PTSD at some point. Additionally, many veterans who have not served in combat are also experiencing symptoms of PTSD due to their exposure to other traumatic events, such as car accidents or natural disasters.

The impact on society is significant, and the cost associated with treating people with PTSD is high: $76.1 billion per year in direct medical costs alone!

While many people are able to overcome PTSD, there are still many who never find closure and may continue to suffer from its effects for years after they leave treatment facilities. For these reasons, this disorder is increasingly being studied in research studies. Researchers are interested in discovering more about how this condition develops and how people can cope with its symptoms. They also want to learn more about what causes some people to develop PTSD after trauma while others may not develop any symptoms at all.

How Does PTSD Treatment Work?

Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical for reducing symptoms and improving function. Treatment can be complex because the symptoms are often so intense and persistent, but several PTSD research studies have confirmed that many people recover from their symptoms through effective treatment.

Typically, treatment options range from medications to therapy sessions and other forms of support. They are designed to help people overcome their symptoms and live more fulfilling lives by equipping them with the skills necessary to cope with daily stressors.

The first step in treating PTSD is learning to recognize the symptoms, which usually occur in response to a traumatic experience. The next step is identifying the type of trauma that caused the symptoms and working with a therapist to develop a treatment plan. This treatment plan aims to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep patterns, modify behavior patterns that contribute to the disorder, manage mood swings, and increase self-confidence.

PTSD Treatment

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, affected individuals may also need medication or therapy. Some people find that just one treatment works best for them, while others prefer several different approaches simultaneously.

Here are the most common PTSD treatments:

Psychotherapy: Therapy can help people with PTSD develop coping mechanisms and other healthy habits to manage their stress levels, which is crucial to recovery from PTSD. It allows people to talk about their experiences without judgment or blame from others while helping them understand why they feel the way they do about what happened and how they can move forward with their lives. A therapist can also help patients learn about their triggers or thought patterns contributing to their symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT involves identifying one's fears and learning healthy ways of thinking about/managing difficult situations and challenging thoughts that lead to anxiety or depression. This may include guided imagery or breathing exercises. The goal of CBT is not just to treat symptoms but also to change how people think about distressing thoughts and memories by reducing their power over them. This method has been shown to help with both short-term and long-term outcomes related to PTSD symptoms.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy: This structured therapy encourages patients to focus on a traumatic memory for a brief period while exposing them to bilateral stimulation. It helps reduce the vividness and emotion the patient has associated with the disturbing event.

Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a trauma recovery method involving exposing oneself to situations or images that are potentially traumatic but not actually harmful or damaging. For example, someone who has been exposed to violence might be placed in an environment where there's a conflict between groups of people and then asked to watch videos of those conflicts without getting involved in them—for them to become desensitized to violence. This method requires patience and trust on the part of both doctor and patient; it's not always effective, but it can help many people overcome their fears.

Medication: Some medications can help reduce symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and flashbacks, which can be very helpful in managing symptoms of PTSD.

What Are Some of the Breakthrough Research Studies Involving PTSD?

2022: Positive Internal Experiences in PTSD Interventions: A Critical Review – This study analyzed whether empirically validated PTSD intervention manuals addressed positive internal experiences and why. It was seen that 53.85% of the reviewed manuals discussed positive memories, while 69.23% and 69.23% of manuals addressed positive emotions and cognitions, respectively. Researchers concluded that positive memories were used to target negative experiences, indicate treatment progress, identify issues, and understand the underlying mechanisms of PTSD. The manuals discussed positive emotions when providing psychoeducation on trauma reactions, and positive cognitions were referenced to enhance self-concept or cope with negative experiences.

2022: Real-Time Telehealth Versus Face-to-Face Management for Patients With PTSD in Primary Care: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – This study compared the effectiveness of PTSD therapy delivered through real-time telehealth (video, phone) and face-to-face session. It was concluded that both mediums equally effectively deliver therapy to patients with severe PTSD.

2021: MDMA-Assisted Therapy for Severe PTSD: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Phase 3 Study – This study investigated the effectiveness of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for treating patients with severe PTSD in comparison with manualized therapy with inactive placebo. Researchers observed a substantial improvement in patient conditions through MDMA-assisted therapy. It was well-tolerated, even in patients with comorbidities.

2021: Examining Moderators of the Relationship between Social Support and Self-Reported PTSD Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis – This meta-analysis indicated that social support helps reduce PTSD symptoms among trauma-exposed individuals. Samples exposed to interpersonal violence, combat, and other violent trauma had a stronger effect size than those exposed to natural disasters. The findings provided insights into mitigating PTSD severity with different social support interventions.

Who Are the Key Opinion Leaders On PTSD Research Studies?

National Center for PTSD: It's the world's largest research center focusing on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD. It was established in 1989 in response to a congressional mandate to address the needs of military veterans and other trauma survivors. The center's mission is to conduct research on traumatic stress and provide education, training, advice, referrals, and other sources for those with PTSD.

Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health: Affiliated with the University of Melbourne, this not-for-profit organization provides education, research, training, and service development to help people understand and promote trauma recovery.

Dr. Richard J. McNally: Dr. McNally is a professor at Harvard University whose research emphasis has been on the psychopathology of PTSD and other anxiety disorders. He is particularly interested in studying the cognitive abnormalities of the disorders. His current laboratory works include network analyses of PTSD.

Dr. Craig Rosen, Ph.D.: Dr. Rosen is a clinical psychologist serving as the Director and the Deputy Director at the National Center for PTSD - Dissemination and Training Division. He specializes in the psychosocial treatment of PTSD and supervises two QUERI workgroups for veterans with PTSD. He is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. His research focuses on improving access to high-quality care and treatment for those affected by PTSD. For this purpose, he uses telehealth technologies like telephones, video conferencing, and smartphones.