Rape Victims Find Peace With Help Of CBT

A new study has revealed that cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) provides long-term benefits for women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Published December 2011 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the research examined female rape victims from a prior randomized study whose PTSD symptoms had been treated via CBT for at least five years. Significant positive outcomes as evidenced by a reduction in symptoms were noted upon conclusion of the initial research at the post treatment assessment. The CBT protocols they received included either cognitive processing therapy (CPT) or prolonged exposure (PE), both forms aimed at helping a patient face her trauma, rather than avoid it.

Lead researcher Patricia A. Resick, PhD, of Boston University and her colleagues conducted a long-term follow up assessment to determine the efficacy of CBT in relieving PTSD symptoms for the same women five to ten years post treatment. As she noted, most studies only evaluate results one year or less after treatment, with the critical question of long-term efficacy often unexplored.

Of the original 171 participants in the initial study, the team located 144 of them and assessed 126, or 87.5% of those found. Outcomes for the long-term follow up assessment were based on the women's self-reported symptoms, with clinical evaluations utilized as secondary outcome measurements.

CBT Has Long-Term Effects

The results revealed that the treatment benefits the women experienced were sustained, with the original decrease in symptoms maintained throughout the follow up period for an average of six years for both the women who received CPT and those who received PE.

The researchers also discovered that additional treatment, along with medication, did not provide any further benefits, and actually made the symptoms worse.

Ultimately, the scientists concluded that the gains made via the two CBT treatment methods for women suffering from PTSD due to rape were long-lasting and suggested that the sustainability of the improvements could not be attributed to additional treatments, but rather were more likely a result of the original therapy.

Anxiety Rooted In Traumatic Events

PTSD is an anxiety disorder triggered after an individual experiences a life-threatening event. The condition can also emerge when one witnesses another person's life at risk, when injury occurs or upon hearing of a terrifying event that occurred to someone else.

Combat duty, manmade and natural disasters, accidents, domestic and child abuse, rape and kidnapping are examples of traumatic events that can result in PTSD. Scientists continue to investigate why some people recover from harrowing experiences while others develop PTSD.

PTSD symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, isolation, hyper-sensitivity, avoidance of people or places that are reminders of the event, difficulty concentrating, and decreased emotions.

CBT is a well-documented treatment option for PTSD that guides patients to explore their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Administered via a qualified therapist, it has been found to be highly effective, especially in combination with specific medications. Those include serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Serotonin is a naturally-produced neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates emotions, among other functions. SSRI's alter the body's natural serotonin secretion to influence signals between brain neurons.

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Michele Rosenthal
Michele Rosenthal
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