Scientists from Flinders University found a method to treat PTSD and major depressive disorder together.
The research is published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders and was conducted by Professor Reg Nixon et al.
In the study, the team examined 52 patients.
These people received three types of treatment regimes for three months — only Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), using Behavioral Activation Therapy (BA) with some CPT, or CPT with some BA.
They found that a combined treatment protocol resulted in meaningful reductions in PTSD and depression severity, with improvements maintained at six-month checks.
The study showed that the reductions in depressive symptoms that occur when PTSD symptoms are targeted early in treatment are consolidated when closely followed with behavioral activation.
The team said when depression was targeted before PTSD that those individuals did not quite have as good an outcome as those in the other conditions.
This indicates there might be a cost to delaying or putting off targeting PTSD symptoms over depressive symptoms.
These findings suggest that trying to ‘ease’ into this work and working on depression first might not in fact help clients as much as people would expect.
The researchers also noted that CPT alone, without any modifications, still showed positive outcomes in the patient group.
Their clinical view at this time is that when individuals with PTSD and MDD present for PTSD treatment, CPT should be delivered first.
Those with higher levels of depression showed more significant change from treatment than those with lower levels of depression.
Although symptoms tended to remain higher in these individuals after treatment than in those with lower levels of depression, the findings indicated that those with high levels of depression still benefited from therapy.
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