Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Someone With Cancer

Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Cancer

The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are long-lasting and serious. They may affect the patient's ability to have a normal lifestyle and may interfere with personal relationships, education, and employment. Because avoiding places and persons associated with cancer is part of PTSD, the syndrome may prevent the patient from seeking medical treatment. It is important that cancer survivors receive information about the possible psychological effects of their cancer experience and early treatment of symptoms of PTSD. Therapies used to treat PTSD are those used for other trauma victims. Treatment may involve more than one type of therapy.
The crisis intervention method tries to lessen the symptoms and return the patient to a normal level of functioning. The therapist focuses on solving problems, teaching coping skills, and providing a supportive setting for the patient.
Some patients are helped by methods that teach them to change their behaviors by changing their thinking patterns. Some of these methods include:
  • Helping the patient understand symptoms
  • Teaching coping and stress management skills (such as relaxation training)
  • Teaching the patient to reword upsetting thoughts
  • Helping the patient become less sensitive to upsetting triggers.
Behavior therapy is used when the symptoms are avoidance of sexual activity and intimate situations.
Support groups may also help people who experience post-traumatic stress symptoms. In the group setting, patients can receive emotional support, meet others with similar experiences and symptoms, and learn coping and management skills.
For patients with severe symptoms, medications may be used. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and, when necessary, antipsychotic medications.
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