Treatments that can help
Psychological (talking) therapies. These are usually delivered on a one-to-one basis with your therapist. The ones with the best evidence-base are:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – helps you to think differently about your memories, so that they become less distressing and more manageable. It usually involves relaxation to help you tolerate the discomfort of recalling the traumatic events.
- Eye movement desensitisation & reprocessing (EMDR) – uses eye movements to help the brain to process flashbacks and to make sense of the traumatic experience.
- Medication. Antidepressant tablets can help. If you find them helpful, you should carry on taking them for around 12 months before slowly tailing them off. If you are so distressed that you can’t sleep or think clearly, you may need sedative medication. But you should only take this for a short time, 2 weeks or so.
How do treatments compare?
CBT, EMDR and antidepressants seem to be most helpful. The evidence for other forms of psychotherapy or counselling is much weaker. Trauma-focused psychological therapies (CBT and EMDR) should usually be offered before medication.