Quick Study: PTSD Sufferers Don’t Have to Go It Alone, Couple Therapy Helps

When one partner has PTSD symptoms, both can be helped by going through therapy together.

Going through couple therapy may help partners when one has syptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. (Photo: Dougal Waters/Getty Images)

Aug 15, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

The study: Couples in which one person suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder can benefit from couple therapy, a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. suggests. Researchers focused on 40 heterosexual and same-sex couples; half underwent therapy together for 15 sessions, and the other half were put on a waiting list and received no treatment.

At the end of the sessions the couples that underwent therapy saw a substantial drop in symptoms and were happier in their relationships compared to couples on the waiting list. Depression, anxiety and anger improved as well, and improvements were still seen three months after treatment. While it seems obvious that therapy would work better than no therapy, the study authors said the comparison was done since evidence on whether couple’s therapy for treating PTSD is safe and effective is lacking.

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What we already know: PTSD can strike anyone who has been through a disturbing, harrowing event, such as combat, personal assault and natural disasters. The disorder takes a toll not only on those with the condition, but on their partners as well. Stress, uncontrollable anger and violence are not uncommon among PTDS sufferers. Various types of treatment used for PTSD includes cognitive behavioral therapy, medications such as antidepressants, and yoga.

What it means for you: If you or your partner suffers from PTSD, even a short period of treatment together (about four months) may help. "PTSD is a very treatable condition, and it's important to get help if you're struggling," study author Candice Monson told U.S. News and World Report. “What our study shows is that allowing your loved ones to be a part of your mental health treatment—if you're in a supportive relationship—can be very important to treatment. We'd never advise someone with cancer to go through their treatment alone, would we?"

What treatments have you found helpful for PTSD? Let us know in the comments.

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