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Hadassah Research Reveals that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May be Best to Prevent and Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Thursday, Dec 15 2011

Research conducted at the Hadassah University Medical Center has shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is more effective than drug therapy in treating and preventing the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

At the same time, the researchers discovered, a significant number of people who suffer from PTSD will heal without ever being treated. In fact, for many individuals, clinical intervention often does not help. Delayed treatment, they added, will not increase the risk of chronic symptoms.

The study was conducted by Prof. Arieh Shalev, former head of Hadassah's Department of Psychiatry, in an attempt to evaluate the most effective method of preventing PTSD. In his analysis of the data, Prof. Shalev concluded: "Unfortunately, we were unable to prove that anti-depressant drug therapy succeeds in prevention of developing ongoing PTSD."

The study involved 242 participants who, shortly before treatment, had suffered a traumatic event, which led to full-blown PTSD. The patients were divided into four groups: two were treated with different forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; half of the third group received anti-depressants (Cipralex/ Lexapro), and the other half, placebos. Members of the fourth group, who exhibited PTSD symptoms even after five months, were also treated with cognitive therapy.

Eight months after the trial began, 77–79 percent of the group treated with CBT recovered fully, whereas only 53–58 percent in the medicated group recovered. In addition, results revealed that the drug therapy was no more effective than no treatment at all.

Researchers further explored whether immediate therapy for people who don't suffer from full-blown PTSD is required. "The important findings," Prof. Shalev relates, "show us that not everyone needs treatment in order to recover, only those who have full-blown diagnosable PTSD." Given this discovery, Prof. Shalev explains, "we can devote our treatment resources to those who will not recover without it, by using full clinical diagnosis before beginning treatment."

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