FYI Health Tip
Approximately 7%-8% of people in the United States will likely develop PTSD in their lifetime.
Though we often associate posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with male combat soldiers, the disorder affects nearly twice as many women as men. PTSD occurs at an exceptionally high rate — 26 to 52 percent –in women who experienced physical or sexual abuse during their childhoods. Little research has been devoted to developing a treatment regimen for this specific subset of PTSD patients–until now. A new study found that emotional skills training followed by exposure therapy improved PTSD symptoms for women suffering from PTSD better than other therapeutic methods.
The researchers recruited 104 women with child abuse-related PTSD to participate in the study. The subjects were divided into three groups. One group of 33 women received skills training followed by exposure therapy. A second group comprised of 38 women enrolled in skills training followed by support therapy. Meanwhile, a third group of 33 women received support therapy followed by exposure therapy.
Each treatment consisted of 16 weekly therapy sessions. The emotional skill sessions focused on teaching the women social coping and emotional regulation skills. Whereas the exposure therapy sessions focused on helping the women confront their traumatic childhood memories, and remembering them rather then avoiding the memories. The researchers measured the success of each therapy type with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale immediately following treatment, three months after treatment, and again six months after treatment.
The results showed that following emotional skills training with exposure therapy achieved the highest rate of long-term remission of PTSD symptoms. Twenty-seven percent of the patients from this group no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD six months after the treatment, compared to 13 percent of the skills training/support therapy group and none of the support therapy/exposure therapy group.
One reason for such a low remission rate in the support/exposure group may have been that 39 percent of the subjects in that group dropped out of the study, which is consistent with previous studies on exposure therapy. Researchers speculate that facing traumatic memories is too difficult for many patients. The low dropout rate of 15 percent in the skills/exposure group seems to indicate that teaching the patients coping and emotional regulation skills beforehand makes them better able to deal with the process of facing their memories during exposure therapy.
If you or someone you know is a woman suffering from PTSD, this treatment may offer you significant relief from your symptoms. Enrolling in emotional skills training followed by exposure therapy may better enable you to label, identify, and manage your feelings, tolerate distress, and accept positive emotions. Additionally, EMDR therapy has been proven to help PTSD patients.
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