UT Health San Antonio study finds effective, fast treatment for PTSD

Study published Tuesday in Journal of the American Medical Association

By Ursula Pari - Anchor

SAN ANTONIO - Researchers at UT Health San Antonio say a new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder is not only effective but works quickly.

The study, made possible by the Strong Star Consortium and funded by the Department of Defense, was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In a first-ever randomized clinical trial with an active-duty military population, participants were exposed to their fears.

“Random crying, any discussion or thought about my previous work experience would lead to these type of breakdowns. I just would have no control. They would take over my whole body,” veteran Don Galliano said.

Galliano was one of the first members of the study to see relief from the demons of his past in battle-torn Iraq 15 years ago.

"I saw a threat in everything I was doing. It was almost as if everyone was an enemy, potentially,” he said.

To see how to best treat PTSD, different types of prolonged exposure, or PE, were studied. One intense method called massed PE came out on top.

Galliano was exposed to trauma memories and daily life reminders in constant sessions in only a couple of weeks. The short-term intense treatment worked best at addressing the horrors of war.

“Part of what drives or prolongs the symptoms of PTSD is the need to avoid these really haunting memories, and, unfortunately, by avoiding them, they don't actually go away,” said Dr. Alan Peterson, a psychiatric professor at UT Health San Antonio.

“I no longer sleep with my phone under my pillow. I no longer wake up with every noise I hear. I no longer make sure I have an escape route to go through when I go to a restaurant,” Galliano said.

Galliano is evolving into the man he was meant to be before Iraq while in remission from PTSD.

“We actually have another study that's called Project Remission that allows us to push the envelope even further to get even better outcomes,” Peterson said.

UT Health San Antonio is looking for veteran volunteers for the new PTSD study. For more information, contact the Strong Star Consortium at Strongstar.org.

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