What is the Best Medication for Complex PTSD ?

complex ptsd medication

Defining Complex PTSD and Its Triggers

Complex PTSD is a severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The condition is typically caused by prolonged exposure to trauma or multiple traumatic experiences. Abuse and sexual abuse are often cited as major triggers of complex PTSD. As with the common form of the condition, complex PTSD is a chronic mental health condition. Although it is not considered curable at this point, it can be managed effectively with various treatments, and complex PTSD medication is often part of the treatment plan. 

Patients with complex PTSD may require more mental health treatment and various medications to alleviate their symptoms and improve condition management. Medications like antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and possibly other types depending on a patient’s symptoms are generally used to treat the disorder. Clinicians often favor SSRIs because they are associated with few unpleasant side effects and are effective in regulating mood and preventing panic and anxiety. 

On the other hand, some patients may need stronger antidepressants and other PTSD medications to manage their symptoms. These medications may cause side effects that include dry mouth, dizziness, reduced sex drive, and others. Complex PTSD can cause severe symptoms that include depression and suicidal thoughts. While medication can help ease symptoms, mental health therapy is also needed to provide well-rounded support for complex PTSD sufferers.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

Symptoms of PTSD

If you have PTSD and your symptoms have escalated in nature or have been difficult to manage, you may have a complex form of the condition. Alter Mental Health can help you manage your condition and relieve your symptoms. This form of the condition is complicated, but it can be managed successfully with proper medical treatment for mental health issues. After patients achieve symptom relief and stability, we aim to develop a treatment maintenance plan that allows them to remain stable and prevent relapse. 

Complex PTSD is a mental health disorder that is related to PTSD and generally defined as a severe form of the illness, but it does often involve additional symptoms as well as severe PTSD symptoms. In addition to flashbacks and feelings of panic, individuals with complex PTSD (often referred to as CPTSD) may experience symptoms such as:

  • Inability or difficulty controlling feelings.
  • Feeling isolated or different from other people.
  • Feeling angry or mistrustful.
  • Feeling worthless or damaged beyond repair.
  • Avoiding relationships with other people.
  • Experiencing dissociative symptoms like feeling detached from one’s emotions.
  • Feeling suicidal.
  • Physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal complaints and headaches.

People with complex PTSD may be triggered by something that reminds them of their past trauma. A trigger can cause an outbreak or escalation of symptoms. People might hear something that reminds them of their trauma and panic.

There may be various causes of CPTSD. While PTSD may be caused by a single traumatic experience like a car accident, complex PTSD is often caused by prolonged exposure to trauma such as domestic abuse or repeat sexual abuse. While the symptoms of PTSD and complex PTSD can be similar, the symptoms of complex PTSD tend to be more severe. By understanding complex PTSD triggers and undergoing treatment, patients can more effectively manage their condition. Complex PTSD requires long-term maintenance but can be successfully managed through medication and therapy. 

The Importance of Early Identification of Complex PTSD and Treatment

It’s essential for people who experience mental health symptoms, especially severe symptoms or symptoms that last longer than a couple of weeks, to seek an evaluation from a mental health provider. There are many treatment options available. Early identification of the illness can help patients get the ideal treatment they need to reduce or eliminate complex PTSD symptoms. Through our efforts, we aim to highlight the impacts of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its potential to cause crisis. Improved symptom management may be able to prevent the condition from impacting an individual’s relationships, work, or education. 

With CPTSD treatment, patients may find that they respond better to some therapeutic approaches than others. That’s perfectly normal. What is most important is that patients seek complex PTSD treatment at a high-quality addiction treatment center like Alter Mental Health. Complex PTSD is a complex disease–it’s no misnomer; however, today’s treatments can dramatically reduce symptoms and promote improved disease management. Expect clinicians to focus on evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and medication management. However, alternative treatments like art therapy may support the recovery process for patients with PTSD and complex PTSD. Alternative and holistic treatments can complement evidence-based therapies. 

ptsd treatment medication

Complex PTSD Medication Options

When it comes to complex PTSD medication, patients have options. That’s important because some patients can’t take certain medications because of their side effects or because of other medications they may be taking. Some medications are not as effective for some patients as others. Fortunately, many medications for PTSD are effective for the treatment of complex PTSD. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for the condition include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (Sertraline, Citalopram, Paxil, and Prozac).
  • Other antidepressants (Venlafaxine).
  • Anti-anxiety medications (Klonopin, Lorazepam).

Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medications are the primary PTSD medications used to treat complex PTSD today. If a patient needs other medications, clinicians will decide at the time what to prescribe based on an individual’s unique needs. Always report side effects to clinicians as medication adjustments are not uncommon in treating this and other mental health disorders. 

Therapy and Other Treatment Strategies

Therapy for complex PTSD takes many different forms. In addition to medication management of CPTSD symptoms, other treatments focus on evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy. Evidence-based treatments have the support of the scientific and medical communities and be safe and effective in treating mental health disorders like PTSD. Therapy for PTSD usually includes a core of evidence-based treatments.

Some mental health facilities also offer alternative mental health treatments that can benefit patients with complex PTSD. Music therapy or art therapy can help patients communicate more easily because they can express themselves and their pain through an art form rather than with words. Some patients find it difficult to discuss their past trauma. Art and music therapy can help these patients express themselves more comfortably, improving their disease management. 

Complex PTSD Medication Management and Side Effects

Managing complex PTSD effectively generally requires medication management. Medications can cause side effects such as nightmares, so clinicians must adjust doses and drugs as needed. Patients should report all side effects to ensure that clinicians know them and can make those necessary adjustments during recovery. Medication adjustment is common. PTSD medication nightmares and other side effects like headaches and stomach upset may subside, but often, medicine management requires a change in medications for patients who experience troublesome side effects.

If you have CPTSD, remember that Alter Mental Health can help you achieve improved management of your condition. Our credentialed clinicians have the expertise needed to treat this disorder and make any necessary adjustments to treatment. Our mental health treatment center is accredited and designed to promote mental well-being. In our positive setting, patients can focus on their therapy and get the support they need to achieve improved condition management. Contact Alter Mental Health today and let our team help you reduce your symptoms and manage your complex PTSD. This condition can be managed, but it takes time and professional help. Call to schedule your appointment today.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

FAQs About Complex PTSD

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is a condition that is regarded as a form of PTSD, but it involves additional symptoms. People who experience long-term trauma or multiple traumatic experiences like abuse can develop PTSD. Symptoms can include reliving the trauma, nightmares, flashbacks, angry outbursts, and suicidal thoughts. Additional symptoms can include mistrust of others, relationship avoidance, and detachment from one’s emotions. PTSD can be challenging to manage, but CPTSD is particularly challenging as it usually involves more symptoms and tends to be a more severe form of the illness.

What are the common triggers of Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is a chronic condition, meaning patients must manage it for the long term. Managing the mental health condition means being aware of triggers that can cause a return of symptoms or can exacerbate current symptoms. Stress is a major trigger. Although it’s impossible to avoid all of life’s stressors, it is helpful to avoid major stress or develop healthy ways to cope with it. Other triggers can include:

  • Crowds of people.
  • Loud noises.
  • Lack of safety.
  • Nightmares.
  • Feeling confused.
  • Feeling guilty.
  • Intimacy.
  • Memories.

Of course, this is a concise list and there may be other more specific triggers for people with the condition. Therapists help patients identify their triggers and develop strategies for coping with them healthily.

How is Complex PTSD treated?

Medical clinicians treat complex PTSD with medication and therapy, generally speaking. Antidepressants are the primary medications used to treat the condition. Many patients benefit from anti-anxiety medications and mood stabilizers. Some patients may need other medications based on their specific symptoms. There are also various therapies for treating CPTSD. Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are two common types of evidence-based therapies used to treat the condition. Other therapies include art therapy, music therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Not all therapies may be evidence-based but they could show promise in treating complex PTSD and related conditions. 

What medications are commonly used for treating Complex PTSD?

Mental healthcare providers prescribe antidepressants such as sertraline and Paxil to treat complex PTSD. However, SSRIs may not manage a person’s symptoms as effectively as other types of antidepressants. Medication adjustment may be necessary during the course of treatment to manage a patient’s symptoms. Some medications can cause side effects like nightmares. Clinicians will adjust doses and medications as needed. Some patients respond well to certain medications that other patients do not.

How can one manage Complex PTSD medication effectively?

Clinicians help patients manage medication with medication schedules and by adjusting medications to minimize side effects. Patients may also need to make lifestyle adjustments to promote treatment success. Avoiding the use of alcohol, for instance, is important, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is important for promoting treatment success. Always discuss your experience with medication with your clinician. If the medication is working or not working is information your clinician needs to have to provide effective CPTSD treatment.

What is Prazosin and what are its side effects?

Prazosin is a drug that is used to treat PTSD. The drug is known as an alpha-blocker and can treat other conditions like hypertension. Physicians prescribe it to treat PTSD because it can block certain symptoms of the condition like nightmares. However, it can also cause side effects like nightmares. If the medication is not effective for a patient, expect clinicians to order a switch to a different medication.

What should I do if my PTSD medication causes nightmares?

If your CPTSD medication causes nightmares, reporting them to clinicians is important. Other medications may work better for you and not cause side effects like nightmares. Nightmares are a common symptom of PTSD and CPTSD, but many medications can reduce them. Some medications cause them. Fortunately, many types of medications may work for your particular symptoms. 

How often might Complex PTSD medication need adjustment?

It’s common for patients with complex PTSD to require medication adjustments or changes during their treatment, especially during the initial treatment period. In fact, some patients may need adjustments later as they maintain their recovery. New medications may also be developed that offer improved symptom control. New medications with fewer side effects may also be developed to treat the condition effectively. If you have concerns about your complex PTSD medication, discussing them with your clinicians is important. Medication adjustments can be very helpful and are often necessary to improve the management of complex PTSD.

If you or your loved one are struggling with PTSD and need treatment for mental health in San Diego, please call us today at 657-218-5095 to talk to one of our assessment counselors and begin immediate admittance. Our helpline is available 24/7 so please do not hesitate to contact us.