Therapy can reduce PTSD’s biological impact

Researchers suggest that talk therapy can not only reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but also gradually alter the biological mechanisms underpinning the condition. Could cognitive-behavioral therapy be the ideal, non-pharmacological method for those who have experienced trauma?

Experiencing trauma, both physical and emotional, can leave us feeling helpless. For those who suffer from PTSD, symptoms can range from sleeplessness to suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, many coping with the lasting effects of trauma and PTSD turn to immediately available solutions, such as alcohol, drugs and pharmaceuticals to numb the psychological warfare that comes after a traumatic experience. People will often experience the symptoms of PTSD in solitude, suffering in silence.

What if there was a more effective, long-term solution?

A better way to navigate trauma

There’s a much better way to recover following a traumatic event—and it involves talking about your experience. In a paper published by Biological Psychiatry, researchers affirm that engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can not only reduce symptoms of PTSD, which impacts learning, memory and emotional regulation functions, but may also affect the underlying biology of the disorder.

PTSD patients participating in the study showed structural changes in the regions of the brain involving emotional regulation, learning and memory at their follow-up appointment after 12 weeks of therapy. The influence CBT has on the biological mechanisms of the disorder incentivizes investment in the long-term effects of CBT.

Embracing vulnerability in treatment

For many people, talking about our most vulnerable feelings is unappealing, especially with a stranger. When that discussion is about a deeply painful trauma that feels central to your identity, it can seem impossible. Suppressing trauma symptoms and hoping they might dissipate over time might seem like the only way to move on from a painful experience. But these findings offer hope. What feelings are you holding inside that need to be discussed?