That being said, I'm going to take a stab at providing a helpful answer to your question.
There is not a blanket answer to this question because everyone is different, everyone responds to trauma in a different way and everyone responds to triggers in a different way. PTSD is very multi-faceted and multi-dimensional and so are individual people so no two cases are going to be alike. Additionally, everyone responds to medication in a different way.
The decision about whether or not medication is a good idea for a person living with PTSD absolutely needs to be made with the help of a professional. I know there is a stigma about taking these types of medications and I believe that stigma probably prevents many people living with PTSD from getting help when they need it.
Here are some points for you and your friend or loved one living with PTSD to know about medication.
- Medication can be helpful in maintaining stability and functionality.
- Taking medication does not have to be a long-term thing - the severity of PTSD tends to fluctuate and therefore it is difficult to predict how long medication will be necessary - it could be short-term, it could be long-term, it could be back-and-forth.
- Finding the right medication or combination of medication can be a trial and error process - it is important for your friend or loved one living with PTSD to be honest and communicate what is working and what is not working and what side effects they are experiencing to their doctor.
- If the cost of medication is a concern, there are usually generic options, or some doctors have samples, or some drug companies have programs to help, so explore options before ruling medication out for financial reasons.
- Talk to your friend or loved one about their level of functionality. What are their goals in healing from PTSD? Do they want and/or need to be more stable? More functional?
- Offer to help them search for a good psychiatrist. They can get a referral from their family physician, from a counselor, from a social service agency, from a church or you can do an online search for practitioners in their area.
- Offer to go with them to their appointment. You do not necessarily need to go into the office with them but sometimes just having moral support in the waiting room is helpful. You can offer this, but then be respectful of your friend or loved one's choice. Do not push this if they say they would like to go on their own.
- Talk with them about what possible side effects of the medications are and how you and your friend or loved one will respond if they do occur. This will reduce tension and surprise on both ends if the side effects do occur.
It is important for friends and loved ones of those living with PTSD to understand that this is a very difficult situation to be in. PTSD was caused by a traumatic event that was out of our control and our minds and bodies react to PTSD in ways that are out of our control. It is our human nature to try to gain that control back somehow and having to take medication makes things feel more out of control too. It's a scary place to be and on top of that most of the world looks down on people who have to be on medication. This is a sad but true state of the world.
Be kind, listen well and be respectful of your friend or loved one's decisions (the exception being if you think their life is in danger).
If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.