New PTSD study examines treatment methods

In an effort to help doctors treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) more effectively, two Dartmouth Medical School professors are leading a nationwide psychotherapy research study they believe is the largest study of its kind. The research takes a multi-site approach to gathering data, and the results will be widely applicable to the general population. Primarily small, community-based studies have been done in the past.

PTSD results when a person cannot cope psychologically with a painful, frightful or alarming experience. This new study will focus on the treatment method known as prolonged exposure where the therapist leads the patient through a vivid memory of a traumatic event until the patient no longer experiences a strong emotional response. This method currently is not widely used for treating PTSD but has shown promise in clinical trials. The established mainstream therapy, called present centered therapy, focuses on current problems while avoiding discussion of the traumatic event.

The five-year study, titled "Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Treatment of PTSD in Women," begins July 1, 2001, and it will focus on military women. The principal investigators are Dartmouth Medical School Professors of Psychiatry Paula Schnurr and Matthew Friedman and their colleague Lt. Col. Charles Engel, Chief, Deployment Health Clinical Center at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Approximately 8 to10 percent of military women, both active duty and veteran, currently suffer from PTSD, and are more than twice as likely as the average American man to develop the disorder. Although these women suffer an unusually high rate of PTSD, they tend to be overlooked in the research.

"Even at facilities that have special programs for women, it would not be possible to obtain enough women at a single site to attain acceptable statistical power during a reasonable time frame," said Schnurr. The study will incorporate data f

Contact: Sue Knapp
Dartmouth Medical School

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