Exposure to trauma may cause an individual to experience some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as flashbacks, emotional numbing and difficulty sleeping.
Although millions of adults are exposed to traumatic events each year, researchers admit little is known about the effectiveness of treatments aimed at preventing posttraumatic stress symptoms.
In a new study, researchers looked into various forms of treatment to prevent PTSD after at least one traumatic event.
After reviewing 2,563 abstracts, the investigators found 19 studies that met the criteria for inclusion in the review. Only two psychotherapeutic treatments showed possible benefits for adults exposed to trauma.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular was found to be more effective than another type of therapy called supportive counseling for individuals exposed to a traumatic event and who meet the diagnostic criteria for another trauma-related syndrome, Acute Stress Disorder.
In addition, a type of therapy called collaborative care (care management, evidence-based pharmacologic interventions, and components of CBT) showed promise to reduce severity of symptoms based on one study.
“Unfortunately, because this body of evidence is so small, the generalizability of these findings is not known,” said researcher Catherine A. Forneris, Ph.D., A.B.P.P. “Much more research is needed before we can make definitive conclusions.”
Co-author Gerald Gartlehner, M.D., M.P.H., agrees, “Clinicians and patients have to be aware that while there are many treatments offered for the prevention of PTSD, many lack sufficient scientific evidence.”
The authors recommend immediate attention from funding agencies, clinicians, researchers, policymakers, and other public health authorities to support further, well-designed research that can broaden the evidence base.
They suggest that future studies expand their examination of the impact of trauma interventions to a wider range of outcomes such as risk-taking behaviors and suicidality and focus on longer-term indicators of development and functioning.
The article is published online by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.