Working to prevent PTSD

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September 5, 2012, 12:19 pm
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(NECN/NBC News: Erika Edwards) - When most people hear the term "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," they automatically think of the military, but PTSD doesn't discriminate.

Anyone can develop the condition.

Researchers at Emory University are looking at trauma patients who never stepped foot on a battlefield with the hope of preventing PTSD from developing. 

Susan Cash has spent most of her adult life looking for healing after surviving a violent rape and shooting as a young woman.

"My own father could not even hug me, I would lay in bed and pray my husband would not touch me. It was awful, and everyday was a challenge," she says.

After years of trying different forms of therapy Susan was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dr. Barbara Rothbaum of Emory University says most people think PTSD is a soldier's disease, but civilians are also greatly affected. 

"About 70 percent of us will be exposed to a traumatic event that could result in PTSD," Dr. Rothbaum says. 

She and her colleagues are trying to prevent ptsd by starting therapy immediately after a traumatic event. 

Rothbaum recruited patients admitted to the Grady Memorial Hospital Trauma Center in Atlanta. 

They had been in a car accident, assaulted or shot. 

Therapists recorded patients' accounts of their experience within hours after they got to the Emergency Room, then had them listen to the recording every day for several weeks. 

They were also taught breathing and relaxation techniques.

"If we can intervene before that memory is consolidated maybe we can change it so it's not the type of fear memory that leads to PTSD," Rothbaum says. 

Patients who got the treatment had half the rate of PTSD, and significantly less depression.

Susan says a treatment like this could have made a difference in her life. 

"The real test of survivorship came after the assault was over," she says. 

Dr. Rothbaum says this form of therapy is cost effective, easy to implement and has the potential to have a positive impact on thousands of lives.

Tags: military, health, post traumatic stress disorder, treatment, Emory University, researchers, PTSD, condition, patients, Erika Edwards, Susan Cash, Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, trauma
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