What Works for PTSD

For the interactive version click here.

By Alexandra Carmichael, Co-Founder of CureTogether

Some of the most popular treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are not necessarily the most effective, according to a new study by CureTogether, a free resource owned by 23andMe that allows people to share information about their health and treatments.

People in the study said they found some treatments without drugs — including art therapy and exercise — were the most effective. Conversely some popular treatments such as the use of antidepressants, were among the least effective, according to the study.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is often associated with combat veterans, but the disorder can occur in anyone who has experienced or seen a traumatic event. Finding the right treatment can be particularly difficult, so CureTogether asked people suffering from PTSD to rate the effectiveness of different treatments.

Rated Most Effective by People with PTSD
1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy
2. Avoid certain places
3. Avoid certain noises
4. Art therapy
5. Exercise
6. Use clear shower curtain
7. Psychotherapy
8. Medical marijuana
9. Anti-anxiety medication
10. Daily routine

CureTogether’s study compiled responses from 531 people with PTSD, who rated the effectiveness of 31 different treatments.

Among the most helpful treatments were Cognitive Behavior Therapy, avoiding places and noises that trigger symptoms, art therapy, and exercise. Also highly effective for those in the study were having a daily routine and participating in support groups. Also on the list was the use of a clear shower curtain, which addresses the fear some have of hidden threats. In contrast people in the study said anti-depressants and Exposure Therapy were not as effective.

Where did this data come from? This is the result of a four-year CureTogether study on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’d like to thank those who participated. And just as they shared their experience with PTSD treatments, we’re freely and openly sharing the results of the PTSD study.

This is part of a regular series of CureTogether research findings. CureTogether’s research findings are different than those made by 23andMe, which look at genetic associations with illness, traits and drug response. But as we continue our work with the CureTogether community, 23andMe hopes to incorporate more of this kind of self-reported information into our own research. CureTogether present its findings just as they are – patient-reported data – to stimulate discussion and generate new insights for further research.

Please tweet, blog, or pass this along to anyone who can benefit or is interested in PTSD. Thank you!

  • Ruchira Datta

    Very interesting. This is promising news for the ReBoot Research Study http://www.osher.ucsf.edu/giving/giving-opportunities/reboot-research-study-integrative-treatment-for-veterans-with-ptsd/ underway, an Integrative Exercise Study for Veterans with PTSD, which you can support online: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/reboot-an-integrative-exercise-study-for-veterans-with-ptsd?website_name=VeteransReboot
    The study was featured in the documentary film Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Health Care http://escapefiremovie.com/

    • This is such very important information, from the bottom of the heart of one who cares so much for those who have given so much, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

    • I would also like to offer as a topic for research examination of how effective the use of Omega 3-6-9 can be. The personal research I conducted of peer reviewed use of this food source were remarkable to me. I do not suffer from PTSD, but I have struggled almost 50 years with Ankylosing Spondylitis, and use of this food substance I buy for five bucks over the counter at Wal Mart, has changed my life. You can buy it anywhere, (be sure to get the purified to remove mercury kind,) It’s only listed side effect in the PDR is “improved overall general health…”

    • So far, Inner Spirit Therapy has been 95 to 100 % effective in treating PTSD.

    • John

      IST got rid of all PTSD symptoms for me.

    • Todd

      Learn to meditate, forgive those who can be forgiven. Most of all remember IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

  • Aaron

    This is awesome. I first heard about curetogether from the 23andme speech given at Squaw Valley. I saw the graph. I then tried to find more graphs online but could not. The research findings link above is exactly what I was looking for. http://curetogether.com/blog/category/research-findings/
    I love that kind of stuff. Thanks

  • Dennis Conners

    Myself, and others, have found great results with ptsd using EFT (emotional freedom technique). I asked a VA counselor why they didn’t use it and he told me that the higher ups refused to even look at it. It has helped many victims like myself. Maybe you could address this. Thanks Dennis

    • Ken

      Excellent point, Dennis. I can’t believe EFT a/k/a Tapping wasn’t even considered. It’s free, easy to do, and effective. A search for “EFT for PTSD” will reveal a lot of useful information. I hope EFT gets the attention it deserves.

    • Nat Cohen

      We have also found that EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) to be very helpful. I am not sure which insurance companies will pay for it.

      • Tammy

        I have complex PTSD; all of the treatments listed have helped me to be a functioning happy (most of the time) person. EMDR really helped me rapidly desensitize an especially traumatic memory. I can recall the event without flying to depression and anxiety. I’m currently doing some Somatic Therapy that is very enlightening and helps me deal with triggers even before they occur. Body awareness can help avert a looming trigger by letting me access cognitive behavioral techniques to put me in a safer place in my mind or literally in a different location. Thank you 23andme for making helpful information available. I highly recommend EMDR and Somatic Therapy.

    • excuzzzeme

      @ Dennis Conner–I would like to point out that as you call yourself a victim of PTSD indicates that you totally have the wrong mindset. “Victims” are usually dead and buried as a result of being a victim. On the other hand, “Survivors” go on living in-spite of a traumatic experience. As a veteran with PTSD, I find my life less complicated and easier to deal with related issues by taking the position of being a “survivor” and not a victim. Being a survivor empowers you to action, whereas being a victim makes you powerless and unable to deal with living with PTSD.

      This is true of many examples of traumatic experiences that effect the ability to function. Nowhere does the noun “survivor” get you a free pass from your experiences but it does place the future under your direct control. This is positive reinforcement that aides you in living on after the cause of a traumatic event. It is not a panacea nor a replacement for professional help that all that are diagnosed with PTSD should seek. It is however, a change in mindset that has enormous implications.

      “Victim” is an excuse to fail.
      “Survivor” is a reason to live.

  • John

    Well avoiding noises and places and using a clear shower curtain should not be considered treatments…they actually are behaviors that maintain the disorder and make it more resistant to treatment.

    • D. Allen Donahue

      Exactly!!! Many of the items listed here are avoidance behaviors, which would of course be great for PTSD sufferers, who are generally highly-motivated expert avoiders. This is moderately interesting from the standpoint of patient preference. But, we cannot reliably glean anything about true treatment efficacies from this. And, in reality, placing this raw uninterpreted “data” out for the general public’s consumption without it having been put through the rigors of scientific review is highly irresponsible. The average person may see this and erroneously conclude that simply avoiding whatever and buying a shower curtain will take care of their distress, rather than seeking an actual proven evidence-based treatment.

      • Rocky

        Avoidance is viable.If you have lack of pigment in your skin, do you cure it or stay out of the sun? If you have had frost bite in the past are you not more likely to get it again, so cure the likelihood or keep out of the cold. Why it that psychotropic drugs are ok but avoidance is not? Neither cures the problem, both only control it in one way or another. Between coping skills, relaxation therapy and reprocessing, I have been able to live a very full life, by the way I don’t go to crowded places, I don’t sit with my back to an open room and I don’t go into confined spaces. Yet somehow you all think its not a treatment. Well it is what has worked best for me.

        • Rocky- I have to agree with you. I am an “avoider” and have found that it really works for me. I have lived with PTSD since Vietnam and spent a ;pretty productive life. I did receive some VA treatment and for the most part, no long term medications. I think the clear shower trick is a good one. In my case, it was a matter of “The closing in effect’ from frosted glass shower inclosure. The result would be a sense of panic. Clear plastic curtains took that away. I still avoid large crowds, loud noises and try to keep my triggers to an absolute minimum. My small bi-weekly group of Vets and our openess of fears have served as my on-going salvation. Welcome home all!!

        • D. Allen Donahue

          Avoidance is the hallmark symptom of PTSD, not an effective treatment for the disorder. Avoidance is the very reason someone would not recover. PTSD is simply a disorder of non-recovery, and if you continue to avoid you will continue to stay in this non-recovery loop. Stop avoiding, process the trauma, allow yourself to complete the natural recovery cycle, and you will then be much less symptomatic; and, as an added bonus, we now know that you will probably be much more protected against PTSD coming back due to potential future trauma. Take it for what it is worth, but I am a veteran, prior PTSD-sufferer, and current PTSD researcher.

        • D. Allen Donahue

          And by the way, I tend to agree with you about psychopharm in most cases. I would advocate always starting with a proven therapy (i.e., Cognitive Processing Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Couples Therapy, Prolonged Exposure, or EMDR) first. Then look to symptom management in the small percentage of people who do not fully respond to treatment. In any case, I truly hope the best for you and all others and just want us all to regain the freedom to return to a life where we don’t need to avoid anything or going anywhere or talking to anyone because of PTSD.

      • SkyCam

        Avoidance behaviors are not going to enable you to get well! Although my clinical social worker was not a PTSD expert, the first words out of her mouth were, “You will not miss one day of work.” The incident took place in my work office. With the support of fellow co-workers who stood ready to talk to me about anything under the sun when a panic episode was about to take place, and Luvox, I was able to overcome most of the problems. Two years in, I took a class in a mantra meditiative practice – not for treatment of PTSD, but because of interest in medititation. In one month, I was off mediatication and on with my life.

        • Jamie’s Mom

          I do not know if I have ptsd or not but since the loss of my son to suicide there are many, many things I cannot cope with. The sound of guns, the sight of blood, movies that I would watch with my Jamie, and more.

          I avoid these things and more. I find that going out in public is getting so much harder and if not for my other sons would be an impossible task.

          The reason I say this is to make a point. Avoidance of these things is just as hard if not, maybe, more so. I miss being able to watch a horror or action movie with my Jamie or even by myself. There are many shows or new movies coming out that I think, “Gee, that would be swell to see.” and the realization that it would send me into tears and fit so bad I would make myself ill comes rushing in. I honestly don’t know how much more of this I can take BUT as much as I know avoidance is harming me I can’t confront or move forward with my life and this is making things so much worse.

    • Richard Ray

      I’ve been fighting PTSD for 43 years. The VA treats me with drugs. I live on my families ranch, I don’t go anywhere unless I absolutely have to. Oh happy day! pass the xanax.

      • Richard,

        When I first went to the VA for PTSD I was asked: “Do you want drugs to help you?”. I said NO. I was then kept in the Pyschology (SP) department and not sent to the P\sychiatric (SP) side. I wanted to find the root of my problem. I spent 6 1/2 years going to classes aimed at learning why I have the problems and how to deal with them. I spent 10 years going to see a Shrink. I do take Trazedone (lowest dose possible) on a nightly basis. This is for anger. I can now do pretty much what I to do. It does pop up from time to time. Taking meds id s choice. Take control of you life. Give the drugs back.

        • I can’t help but offer the suggestion to do some research of peer reviewed academic research articles, (if it isn’t peer reviewed it might just be a drug company posing as academic research,) of Omega 3, 6, 9, your brain is largely composed of it…. Not getting enough prohibits optimal health. It is just a food substance, whose listed side effect is “improved overall general health.

      • Richard, I encourage you to take a look at my website, which focuses on How to heal from PTSD. I have suffered with the condition since 1970, when I became the sole survivor of a squad of Marines in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. EMDR is the way to heal. I experienced EMDR therapy in the hands of EMDR (hand motion not machine lights) certified Psychologist from 1998 – 2002. Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprossessing (EMDR) organizes the chaos of trauma left in the brain after a traumatic experience. Alan

  • Brian

    Interesting article. I have found that EMDR (www.webmd.com/mental-health/emdr-what-is-it) has been the most helpful for me so far, compared with cognitive therapy, anti-anxiety medication, psychotherapy, avoidance, exercise or daily routine. This seems to have allowed me to “put to rest” many of the issues that kept eating on me!

    • Steve Girard

      I also found EMDR to be very effective and weekly conversations with my Social Worker to discuss my daily battles helps. You must have a venting route so it does not build up inside. I owe my life to my great medical team at Leeds, Ma VA. THANKS!

      • laura neville

        that is great to hear…I really like EMDR on a personal level(!) as well as using it at work. The army has given us the training-and really been supportive for it to be utilized here at fort hood…

        • ClairBear226

          I’ve had good luck with Prolonged Exposure Therapy, EMDR, and iRest yoga (yoga nidra). I agree with the above comment that this does not sound remotely like a scientific study, more just a survey of personal preferences. If a shower curtain can be considered therapeutic, can I add chocolate therapy? ;-)

    • I also found EMDR the most effective. The concept is to move the experience to a different part of the brain to get past the trauma and deal with it more rationally. It helps me discuss the trauma with friends and family with very few episodes of flashbacks. PTSD just doesn’t go away and will likely stay with me, as other experiences do, for the rest of my life. It’s something people find hard to understand. An important thing about EMDR is one’s willingness or ability to try something different. It’s hard to imagine that visualization techniques involved in my treatment could help me make such progress. Other steps along the way were perhaps necessary at the time, but always thought there was something more. EMDR helped complete the process using my own imagery and thoughts with just the right Doctor.

      • Benjamin

        EDMR has been a life saver for me !!!!! I’ve tried MANY therapist with no luck at all. 52 years old and just now finding the help I need from years of childhood abuse, drugs, physical and mental/emotional abuse at the hands of “parents”. It has also been a help with my job stress and the recent break up of my 28 year marage.

        • jim

          I have taken Zanax(1mg) for twentyeight years and haven’t had anxiety attacks that rendered me immobile since I started the anti-anxiety medication on a (1) tablet daily.

      • Frank

        There is no empirical evidence (and the evidence that is available is minimal and shaky at best) that rapid eye movements add anything at all to the basic exposure paradigm/cognitive processing utilized in EMDR protocols. Furthermore, where is the empirical evidence that EMDR achieves success by moving the experience to a different part of the brain? If you understand how memory and emotional processing works, then you know that this proposed mechanism of EMDR is not even remotely logical. If EMDR is successful, it is because of the exposure process invoked by the intervention (i.e., counter conditioning). Rapid eye movements add virtually nothing (and in fact can worsen outcomes) to intervention. Simply put, EMDR is just behavior therapy by another name with a flashy, but clinically meaningless, add-on.

        • Joelle DuBois

          Actually, Frank, there is a wealth of empirical support on the effectiveness of EMDR in the treatment of PTSD and is endorsed by both the APA and The Miltary (AMEDD) as an evidence based treatment for PTSD… I have been involved in both EMDR training and treatment for over 20 years and can personally attest to it’s efficacy…

        • Ben

          Ahh yes, Frank has taken an intro psych class taught by a professor with an anti-EMDR agenda. And now we hear the regurgitated opinion : D If you were a clinician in the field, you would know that in spite of the academic debate about what mediates the change in EMDR, it WORKS for a lot of people including soldiers and vets. You don’t need to know the intricacies of automotive engineering to know that your car will get you from point a to point b

        • I pooh-poohed EMDR until a couple of months ago. I have been working on cptsd for a long, long time. My therapist suggested we give it a go and I can almost FEEL the rewiring take place. I am seeing things in new ways, having new thoughts. It’s working very well for me. I don’t care why.

  • Christy Masterson

    I hope in future studies, massage therapy will be addressed and it will continue to be implemented in programs which deal with PTSD. I feel at this time it is an often overlooked option for management. I suffered from PTSD in my childhood and am pretty sure it would not have been a viable option in the acute stages, however after a bit of time I wish it had been recommended to deal with the stress and fatigue of the constant engagement of the sympathetic nervous system. I am a student MT and did my paper on PTSD and massage and am hoping to get referrals from the psychiatric dept from the local base, here in order to help alleviate the physical symptoms as well as to help in the process of reintegrating self for returning soldiers. Great article, thanks for the info and to those who participated and may each ones healing continue and be complete.


  • We have had good success with PTSD utilizing LifeForce, a relaxation therapy therapy which utilizes sound and color vibrational therapy to place the body into a state of total relaxation thereby encouraging the body and mind to heal itself. We have difficulty in getting the VA and Army’s attention. We have been told by several , informally that the Army and VA just want the problem to go away. Wgave therapy to a young sergeant who had a very bad tick of his head, which is constant. After LifeForce the tick was gone, though we believe he needed additional therapy. His commander forbade him from returning, and the tick came back w/o the needed additional therapy.

  • EJS

    Not sure I completely understand this chart, a lot of these are redundant. For example:
    – “Antidepressants,” “SSRIs,” “Prozac” and “Wellbutrin” are all listed separately and defined as having differing popularity and effectiveness. SSRIs are the most commonly-prescribed type of antidepressant, and Wellbutrin’s a specific antidepressant. Prozac is a specific kind of SSRI.
    – “Psychotherapy,” “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy,” “talk therapy,” “exposure therapy” and “Art Therapy” are listed separately. Not sure why cognitive-behavioral THERAPY or art THERAPY would be more effective than therapy in general. It’s also a little unclear what the difference between “talk therapy” and “psychotherapy” is.
    – Xanax is listed as much less effective or popular than anti-anxiety medications. Last I checked, Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication.
    – Walking is a type of exercise, and yet it’s listed as being less effective or popular than exercise in general. Same thing for yoga.

    Kinda makes me question the validity of this.

    • Alex Carmichael

      Hi EJS,
      Thanks for your comment! Great observation.

      In crowdsourced studies, it’s important and informative to have redundancy. Patients report their own treatment labels, and it’s an interesting question for further study when general categories and specific drugs don’t agree. For example, for SSRI’s, sometimes people have to try several before finding one that works for them, so they might rate the category as a whole more negatively than the specific treatment that worked best for them.

      The point of this study is to gather and collect patient knowledge and provide ideas for further investigation.

  • Barbara

    I am a non military PTSD patient…. Nothing anyone has tried has worked yet – except hypnosis… Any ideas?

    • beani

      Read Articles by Raymond Craille, PT in Delray Beach, FL who treats returning soldiers with PTSD with HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) and his special techniques in PT.

      Try juicing vegetables, cut out all snacking foods, avoid anything with Corn Syrup, Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Canola oil, and artificial sweeteners, especially ASPARTAME. All of those mess with your brain and body. The fresher and natural your food sources — the better you’ll feel.
      (You now have to watch milk products because the US Dairy Assoc is petitioning the FDA to REMOVE Aspartame from the labels).

      Talk out the problems with a group and a professional but avoid the drugs.

      Check out using Krill oil instead of Fish oil… and adding GLA to your diet.

      If you can exercise do it!

      If you are near to a body of water, walk by it whenever you can.

      Be Well!

      • Kathleen

        I, too, am a non-vet PTSD survivor of attempted rape as a child. I was in therapy for several years before even remembering the assault, then in therapy to get over that trauma. I started on meds 15 years ago, and have been different ones since. I am now on Wellbutrin and Ativan. I have problems walking because of spinal stenosis and a problem with my foot. I still have panic attacks, and do not go out unless I have to. Any advice ?

    • D. Allen Donahue

      Barbara, I would recommend first checking out one of the following: Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT); Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE); Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR); or, if you have a significant other, Cognitive Behavioral Couples Therapy (CBCT). These are the empirically-proven gold-standard treatments recognized by the APA and the federal government. They all have similarities and differences to one another. So, read up on the method/protocol for each treatment and figure out which one sounds the best and makes the most sense to you. Then, check out the APA or ABCT websites and they should have a list of providers in your area whom you can contact for one of these treatments. Also, make sure that you feel good about working with your provider. If not, be a good consumer and shop around and find another. Best of luck!!!

  • D. Allen Donahue

    Many of the items listed here are avoidance behaviors, which would of course be great for PTSD sufferers, who are generally highly-motivated expert avoiders. This is moderately interesting from the standpoint of patient preference. But, we cannot reliably glean anything about true treatment efficacies from this. And, in reality, placing this raw uninterpreted “data” out for the general public’s consumption without it having been put through the rigors of scientific review is highly irresponsible. The average person may see this and erroneously conclude that simply avoiding whatever and buying a shower curtain will take care of their distress, rather than seeking an actual proven evidence-based treatment.

  • Is there any differentiation on types/causal factors re: PTSD… Combat… #episodes, # deployments. I believe the PTSD needs to be broken out… Post Combat Traumatic Stress Disorder (PCTSD) etc…

  • Michelle

    EFT has helped and hypnosis+therapy…Plus not just soldiers get it, I have it from years of sexual abuse.

    • Hi… Pleased that you’ve found a path for help… but it really can be different and has different causal and healing processes although there can be overlap….

  • Nick Easton

    the Medical marijuana never worked for me. I became extremely paronoid

  • Kim

    When you refer to ‘Art Therapy’ in this study, does this entail ‘using art as therapy’? Or, is does it mean the patient worked with a licenced/certified art therapist?

    Kim Bulot, American Healing Arts Foundation, Executive Director

  • AJ

    I adopted a brother and sister sibling group. Same bio parents. They had been subjected to a lot of stuff including drug exposure. The adoption was final 7 years ago and they are now 9 and 11. They have PTSD among other things. They still, even after all these years of being in a loving home have many issues. We see 2 different therapists a week. They are both on meds for ADHD, PTSD and sleep disorder.The EMDR didn’t work. One therapist thought horse therapy would work but we couldn’t afford it and the insurance wouldn’t cover it.

  • rhonda vivian

    i have ptsd for the rest of my life and it is an every day struggle. i use marijuana and it seems to be the safest least harmful form of medicating. i have had a lot of therapy and it helped. i think that understanding the symptoms, having some way of trying to recognize them and having something that you do when you notice you are rocking, pacing, crying, sleeping too much, or not sleeping, not eating,or having panic or anxiety attacks. if i use marijuana and immediatly start doing something else…..anything…a walk, music, dance, or scream into a pillow, exercise….even if i have to push myself..it helps. one problem i have is disassociation identity disorder (multiple personalitys) that comes along with my ptsd. while they (personalitys) help me with ptsd…people just think i am crazy! just me comments…just knowing someone out there can relate to me is tremenous…thank you.

    • bobbie

      had it my whole life, it’s actually very frightening. a person thinks that it “shows” outwardly. if one says something funny or cute you see the other response, as oh, oh, he can tell i have a problem. on medication , i was told by a reputable doctor that i have clinical depression, now i hear, no one can find a cure. many more cases every day occuring. also don’t stop taking these 2 compatable meds., you’ll have convulsions. to live like this is like i’m in jail.

  • Tamara K

    I cannot believe that no where on the list is Prazosin – a well-known drug that was found to be effective for PTSD at the VA Hospital in Seattle. While not a “cure” for PTSD, it does help incredibly with nightmares and hyper-arousal. As the VA researched the drug, isn’t is available through other VA clinics/hospitals or in the wider community? I live in Seattle, so all the docs here know about it. And I believe it saved my life. If you took away any other drug, I would be okay – but don’t take my Prazosin!

    • Beth

      What are the side effects ? Thx ~b

      • Tamara K

        You will feel dizzy the first few times you take it – my doc said “Take this after you get into bed.” The other common – dry mouth and (since it is a blood pressure med) possible lower blood pressure. I haven’t felt any of those, but those are the reported.

  • Carrie

    Mindfullness breathing, Yoga and meditation have been shown to help lessen the symptoms of PTSD, with new studies and info coming out on the age-old benefits. VA hospitals in Texas, Colorado, Mass, Hawaii use yoga and meditation as a treatment. See Veterans Yoga Project http://veteransyogaproject.org/ and Warrior Meditation Project http://www.thewarriormeditationproject.org/the-project for research and resources.

  • Jaystarr

    I have had PTSD since 1992…I have been to many therapist and have been given medication that I believe are not the right ones, because it does nothing but make me sit like a vegetable. I can’t sleep…I have sometimes rages and keep remembering my events during War in the Persain Gulf.
    The worst part is that the VA is not helping because they won’t cover this and I have no other medical plans that would futher pay for my therapy that I no long have… Help!

  • MJ

    I have personally found that EMDR and EFT have helped me the most.

  • Nadine

    I suffer from Complex PTSD not related to military service but rather to childhood abuse and a 26 year abusive marriage. I have tried Cognitive Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Talk Therapy, EMDR and have been on a cocktail of medication for 4 years. Nothing has helped – all of the therapy methods requiring talking about the specific details of my trauma and basically reliving it – al this does is make my Complex PTSD worse the day before my appointments and for days after my appointment. I have not slept more than 4 hours in one night for more than 20 years. I am physically and mentally exhausted. I hate leaving my house because I feel exposed and at risk – just the thought of leaving my house makes me anger and sacred. In my house I am in control of my environment – it is my safety zone. I have attempted suicide more times than I have fingers and toes and almost succeeded twice. No one understands everyone tells me to “get over it” “deal with it” “move on” and “stop dwelling in the past” – all this does is make me feel more alone, more isolated and crazy. Those of us who suffer from PTSD everyday of our lives need real help and awareness that PTSD is a real thing, that it is not made up, you cannot just “get over it” and that it is does not affect only soldiers. There are massive awareness campaigns for everything else – why are we swept under the rug or hidden away?

  • Jeff H.

    I have a question if anybody knows. Are a persons cortisol levels effected with PTSD? If anybody isn’t aware of cortisol. It is the bodies hormone to the fight or flight response.

  • Erica

    I am a PTSD clinician and researcher, and this “study” is completely ridiculous. Some of these items are not treatments (e.g., avoidance) but are behaviors that make PTSD sufferers feel temporarily better in the short-term but only serve to make the PTSD worse in the long-term. So if you ask a PTSD sufferer what behaviors make them feel better, of course they will say that avoiding the places/situations that trigger PTSD makes them feel better. In actuality, treatments that WORK in the LONG-TERM usually require a lot of work and commitment.

    Also, as another poster pointed out, there is a lot of overlap between items that are placed on different areas of the chart. EMDR consists of exposure therapy combined with eye movement exercises. However, on the chart, exposure therapy is listed as not that effective, while EMDR is listed as effective. (Research actually shows that the exposure component is the part of EMDR that causes improvements, not the eye movements).

    Here is another example: Cognitive behavior therapy is listed as highly effective in the chart, but exposure therapy is listed as not that effective in the chart. However, exposure therapy is part of cognitive behavior therapy. If a patient is getting treated for PTSD with “cognitive behavior therapy,” then he is probably getting exposure therapy within his treatment. Doesn’t make sense.

    I advise the creators of this study to refrain from publishing “study results” like this without an educated interpretation/explanation by mental health professionals. Publishing misinformation like this does more harm than good to the public.

    • Roland Huson

      Thank you, Erica. You did a great job of explaining why this “research” should never have seen the light of day. It’s easy enough to throw a survey together and stick it on a website. This doesn’t mean it is responsible to do so.

  • Sara

    As a psychologist who treats and researches treatments for PTSD, I find this study to be highly concerning. At least 2 of the “treatments” you’ve listed are symptoms of PTSD: avoiding certain places and avoiding certain noises. I think you are doing the public a huge disservice by stating that symptoms of a disorder are effective treatments, when there are well-controlled research studies showing that psychotherapy (e.g., Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy, EMDR) are highly effective. I hope that those who are dealing with PTSD look elsewhere for more scientifically sound advice, like the National Center for PTSD (www.ptsd.va.gov).

  • My guess is, from the sound of your study, is that art therapy and perhaps other interventions cited as “surprisingly effective” means “art making as self-help” and perhaps not a professional relationship with an art therapist. I am guessing this because “clear shower curtain” is a simple intervention often discovered on a self-help group. Please consider definining in detail what you mean by “art therapy” and other treatments mentioned– unless we are given operational definitions, we cannot really learn from the data you have presented.

    I work with military whose challenges include posttraumatic stress reactions and many report that they use medical marijuana not necessarily obtained through prescription. I believe all of what was mentioned can “work” for certain individuals. However, like one of the other comments, it seems odd that EFT and the tapping protocols were not listed– I know many combat military veterans who give favorable reports on these.

  • John C

    QUacks, charlatans and other money hungry fakers come out of the woodwork to obtain PTSD research dollars. Everything from video game and pet therapy to shots in the neck and hypnosis have been submitted as the latest “cure”. Well, as my psychiatrist at the VA says, I have a “chronic and incurable case of PTSD.” I don’t particularly care for the guy but he at least understands and tells the truth. The gullible few PTSD sufferers and the fakes can be misled into making claims of relief and/or curing on behalf of these lying, manipulating shysters who have and will make all of these claims of miraculous cures while holding their hands out for research dollars. The fact is, there is a PHYSICAL change that occurs in the brains of PTSD sufferers as well as the other problems. This is conveniently ignored by all these snake doctors, as if it does not occur and has no bearing on the problem. I am so tired of quackery in the filed and being victimized again and again by these educated thieves of governmental funds. Perhaps, just perhaps, the answer is in, guess what? ENOUGH THERAPY! Whether on your own dollar, at the VA, or at the Vet Center therapy every month or every week, is not often enough. If the money given to fake practitioners and researchers was channeled into hiring a sufficient number of psychiatric staff to treat veterans at least THAT portion of the PTSD ridden community would probably benefit greatly. AND the results of that would give promise and guidance to the profession and the sufferers. But, it’s all about money and politics and it ain’t gonna happen. So we suffer all our lives.

  • Joe N Daniels

    In my search for my personal recovery I find “TIME” is the only way one can overcome PTSD…Like myself I am a Vietnam combat Veteran who thought he did not have it until an explosion brought a lot of things back to include a explosive anger that was storied in side of me (early 90’s last I remember) that took over 20 years to over come..VA stuck me in AAA meetings because they thought I was a drunk but I proved them wrong…I lost my wife and son in a divorce. due to my anger…I could have killed some one or myself.
    I still have this thing in my head but I do my best to control it with out drugs or being a drunk…Now I have turned 70 and I will never forget how I was treated by VA and the federal government…They really do not care what happens to me or my comrades…None of them care about a veteran…They only wish we were dead so they could stop our retirement benefits to meet their budget…It’s all about money…

  • Thank you to Cure Together for their efforts to address PTS. Dr Jonathan Shays two books on Viet Nam experience makes me think how Aristotle might approach a cure for PTS. If the Aristotelean mean (virtue/good health) is the mean between the vice of PTS and the excess of denial of PTS, might those with PTS benefit by learning of those who have successfully navigated traumatic injuries through Post Traumatic growth(PTG)? I chronicled the journeys of seven “warriors with character” who overcame PTSin finding the Aristotelean mean.

  • Iraqvet

    I have tried everything the VA has given me as far as anti depressants, anti anxiety, therapy and PTSD groups. I have self medicated with Alcohol and had a script for Medical Marijuana. The only thing that has Totally worked is Transcendental Meditation(TM). Research The David Lynch Foundation and Operation Warrior Wellness. Since practicing TM I have not needed Alcohol or Marijuana. Transcendental Meditation really works.

  • Angela

    Why was Prazosin listed? I’ve had PTSD since 1986. Prazosin and a therapist who specialized in treating refugees, long-term abuse survivors, POW’s and people applying for political asylum in the US did more for me in 2 years than any previous therapist/medication combination in the 15 years before that.

  • Kate

    Since when is avoidance considered a form of treatment? Sometimes triggers can’t be avoided. And some of us don’t want to avoid them. If I allow my PTSD to limit my activities then my rapist still has control over my life and that’s the last thing I want.

    • Carol

      Avoidance is certainly not a treatment. This is what led me to be so reclusive. It is much easier to avoid life altogether but that is not the goal. Kate you are right. Sometimes triggers can’t be avoided and we do the best we can when faced with them. Basically the rapist always wins. He gave me a life time sentence and I was just turned down for health insurance (since I left the job that employed my rapist) because I took medication for PTSD. When does it end?????????

  • Robert D. Stolorow
  • I am surprised there are not more complimentary therapies listed. One I know to be very helpful is the Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson. He gives away his e book to all verterans at his website. I personally have used this method on veteran clients & have seen amazing changes take place very fast, without having to relive any traumatic situations. The emotions and hidden emotions can be ‘cleared’ completely through this method of treatment.

  • As a service connected disabled Veteran with a PTSD diagnosis, AND a mental health worker that assists Veterans and other trauma survivors with their PTSD-related issues, I have to point out that #’s 2,3, and 10 are NOT “treatments”…they are, in fact, symptoms of PTSD itself, all falling within the “avoidance” cluster…..

  • Shar P

    Thank you for posting this I guess that is why I do the shower curtain thing, and i avoid music and I hate noise, I avoid going out a lot and yes GROUP therapy is a must for people with PTSD, I tell my doctor that all the time but there not understanding that is a military doctor it does help but where I’m at they do not offer it a big let down because it helped me and did so much for me..I think art works because a person with PTSD is working with there hands and we allow ourself the movement in our hands it has something to do with that I believe it…I think I could be wrong…I know I use to do a lot of art work some how, I lost my art work doings when I moved :( and one thing I can not stand is change as a PTSD did person I dislike change it sets me off track..

  • Dan

    EMDR and EFT can be extremely effective in resolving PTS issues in my experience as a practitioner. I’ve worked mainly with PTS arising from early serial abuse – physical, mental, sexual, and emotional. EFT can work quickly – see Gary Craig on YouTube, 6 Days at the VA – but with early serial trauma it can take a lot of work, but still not as long as conventional therapies, which often don’t get any significant results unfortunately. I now work with Faster EFT which tends to be more effective and is actually faster. There are over 600 free Faster EFT videos on YouTube.

  • The use of the Emotion Code techniques heals the trauma & the emotions involved, not teaching a person to avoid a situation. We never know in our day to day lives when a situation may arrise that can be a trigger to these emotions related to the trauma. Lets use the tools that are on the planet at this time to actually remove the emotional responses that are out of our immediate control. At least give it a try – what do you have to lose? You can find a practitioner, buy the book & do the work yourself, or work with someone you trust.

  • ed a

    avoiding places that trigger your symptoms means it still controls your life.. i feel this is bad advice. you might as well live in a closet…or never go outside…come on this is bad advice



  • This is really helpful. I have been suffering with both for some time and have denied the use of medication due to nursing my son. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how many mothers I talk to keep suggesting that I take the meds. I’m in therapy and trying hard to stick with a routine and balance. Some days are better than others, but I know I’ll get through it. Thanks for posting this!!

  • I found a combination of therapeutic and healing arts,along with exercises of Qi Gong,yoga, toning , breathwork, visualization, meditation
    most beneficial in calming wounded warriors with PTSD, TBI . These modalities also help grieving children and adults, those with chronic pain, those undergoing cancer treatments,intact, all populations!


  • Hypnosis and EFT are very effective if done properly. This program was created for veterans and their families, it is free, and it has many hypnotherapy sessions that help tremendously.

    Wendi Friesen

  • Joelle DuBois

    A very interesting article discussing the neurological underpinnings and rationale for EMDR in the treatment for PTSD…


  • Avoiding places that trigger PTSD does not necessarily mean you live in a closet. It’s dependent on what your triggers are and can be very good advice. For example, if you were in a car wreck, don’t go to demolition derbies. For me, I had a very difficult 7 years in the state of Maine. I live in Massachusetts. Although, I’ve been to Maine on occasion, I choose to not go there often.

    The thing is, one manifestation of PTSD is an almost obsessive need to recreate the circumstances of the trauma. This adrenaline seeking behavior is dangerous, physically and psychologically. Yet, our culture sometimes praises it because it looks like bravery. It isn’t. If you survived being adrift at sea with sharks, don’t make a habit of going into shark cages or repeatedly take on dare-devil single person sea crossings. It isn’t dealing with your PTSD, it’s programming yourself to be an adrenaline junky.

    Yes, there are specific triggers that people with PTSD should choose to avoid.

    • Jessica

      Karen- I find that your assessment to be one of the most level headed comments I’ve read.

      This all or nothing attitude coming from several responders is slightly offensive. I think that in the end, dealing with PTSD looks slightly different for everyone. So treatment in turn will essentially look different for everyone. I for one have gone ‘cold turkey’ on avoidance technique only to find my nervous and digestive system in shock. Diagnosed at 17, this has been a journey. A journey in wellness. Sometimes with drawbacks. This research may not be 100i% but for those of us not being able to afford healthcare, some info is better than NO info. Or passive aggressive back and forth…

      To the clinicians, doctors, and armchair experts— this is why they call it “practicing medicine.”
      I applaud those suggesting more natural ideas, such as meditation, yoga, and groups. I know my experience with pharma was a true nightmare. And in retrospect, a grave setback in emotional and mental growth…

  • martha bamrick

    I suffered from PTSD after being bitten in the face by a dog in 2006. I had nightmares for about one and a half years. I eventually got over it with no therapy although, I might have benefited from it. I now have a dog again but I always think about what he may be capable of doing to me. The dog that bit me was not my dog but he knew me for 4 years. The vet said he probably had a brain tumor that gave him a headache of a life time and at the time he didn’t know who I was. At the time I had a dog and the 2 were best friends until about about 6 months before the incident. My dog noticed a change in this guy and was clearly afraid to be around him. I should have taken that as a clue. I have a new dog because my old guy died at the age of 15 and I got a new one who was 4 yrs old on the day I got him. I am still very cautious because I know what damage they can do. My lower lip in 2 sections was ripped off and my chin was bitten off down to the bone. Fortunately I had a very good plastic surgeon and to this day you can hardly tell.

  • Ros

    Most therapies do not have the best results as desired because the individual with PTSD may not be able to asimilate them. PTSD implies huge neural waves imbalances and the brain is performing under the survival mode with many limitations. Those limitations could be translate as low self confidence, obsesive denial, low quality sleep, cronic stress, anxiety and depression, and many more. EFT should work as long it is practiced by an expert and the sufferer is commited to hill. BWO or neurofeedback are by far the most effective choices because are designed to balance the neural waves and the flow of neutransmitter. The brain achieves its natural an full functioning capacity after a few sessions.

  • Charity Wilkinson

    Avoidance is a symptom of PTSD not a treatment. Avoiding things in the moment can make you feel temporarily better, but ultimately keeps PTSD going and makes it worse. All of the therapies that are shown to work for PTSD- Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive Processing Therapy- especially ask people to stop avoiding. Ultimately avoiding will rob you of all the things you used to enjoy in life. What makes PTSD better is facing difficult memories and situations. That means truly feeling your emotions about the trauma. And it also means going to crowded places. I’m a clinical psychologist and I specialize in PTSD. If you don’t believe look at the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) website. PE and CPT have decades of research. If you want to get better, stop avoiding and try PE or CPT.

  • Damion Grasso

    Thank you for the study. Please, however, when posting these results, make the public aware of the serious limitation of self-report, ‘consumer report’ style research – namely, that there is a self selection bias (there may be a difference in who chooses to respond to the survey than the general population of treatment seekers), demand characteristics (people may feel the need to respond in a certain way regardless of the actual efficacy of the treatment received), and the lack of a randomized, controlled experimental approach. Most troubling is that exposure therapy appears to be rated very low in self-reported effectiveness; however, it is the most efficacious of all treatment modalities based on rigorous research. Exposure therapy, however, is uncomfortable and not easy. Art and music therapy along with avoidant techniques (clear shower curtain, etc.) are not uncomfortable or challenging, and thus may be deemed more effective only because they are more tolerable. It is the duty of researchers to warn the public of these nuances of research so they can make the most informed decisions.

  • As a psychotherapist who developed a therapeutic writing program, I am not at all surprised that you found art therapy to rank high in effectiveness in treating ptsd. Thanks for the research!

  • walter

    As a veteran who suffered from combat related PTSD in Viet Nam I can say that much of the effective therapy I experienced came from therapists and friends who had been there and experienced their own trauma. It’s hard to trust someone with those experiences who hasn’t had a similar experience. Most of the vets I know did poorly with the drug therapy offered by the VA.

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