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The Best Medication for Complex PTSD: Why There is None

In short, there is no one “best” medication for complex PTSD. The reason for this is that every individual experiences the condition differently, and what works for one person may not work for another.

In short, there is no one “best” medication for complex PTSD. The reason for this is that every individual experiences the condition differently, and what works for one person may not work for another. That said, there are certain medications that are commonly prescribed for complex PTSD, and in this blog post, we will discuss some of the most commonly prescribed medications along with their possible side effects.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

The most commonly prescribed class of medication for complex PTSD is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, which leads to an increase in serotonin levels. This increased availability of serotonin has been shown to improve mood and decrease anxiety. SSRIs are generally well-tolerated, but they can cause a number of side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and drowsiness. Commonly prescribed SSRIs for complex PTSD include sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac).

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of medication typically used for the short-term treatment of anxiety. Benzodiazepines work by depressing the central nervous system, which leads to a decrease in anxiety levels. Although benzodiazepines are effective in the short-term, they can be habit-forming and should only be used for a brief period of time. Furthermore, benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness, confusion, and memory problems. As such, they should not be used if you have a history of substance abuse or addiction. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for complex PTSD include lorazepam (Ativan) and alprazolam (Xanax).

Antidepressants

Another class of medication that can be effective in treating complex PTSD is anti-depressants. Antidepressants work by balancing chemicals in the brain that regulate mood. Unlike benzodiazepines, antidepressants are not habit-forming and can be taken long-term if necessary. However, they can cause a number of side effects, including weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and dizziness. Commonly prescribed antidepressants for complex PTSD include nortriptyline (Pamelor) and amitriptyline (Elavil).

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Like antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications can also be effective in treating symptoms of complex PTSD. Anti-anxiety medications work by reducing the levels of anxiety and fear in the brain. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed type of anti-anxiety medication. Examples of benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium). Alternative therapies such as the use of psilocybe cubensis can be explored, but it is best to do so in a controlled environment when using this substance to maximise benefits for mental health conditions.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are a type of medication that is primarily used to treat bipolar disorder. However, they can also be effective in treating complex PTSD. Mood stabilizers work by regulating mood swings and decreasing irritability and impulsivity. Lithium is the most commonly prescribed type of mood stabilizer. Other examples of mood stabilizers include valproic acid (Depakote) and lamotrigine (Lamictal).

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Like SSRIs, SNRIs are a type of antidepressant that work by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. These medications are often prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, and chronic pain—all of which are common symptoms of complex PTSD. Some of the most common SNRIs prescribed to treat complex PTSD include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor). Possible side effects of SNRIs include nausea, headache, insomnia, drowsiness, and sexual side effects.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

TCAs are a type of antidepressant that work by inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. These medications can be effective in treating both anxiety and depression—two common symptoms associated with complex PTSD. Some of the most commonly prescribed TCAs include amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil), and nortriptyline (Pamelor). Possible side effects include dry mouth, constipation, weight gain or loss, blurred vision, and dizziness.

There is no one “best” medication for complex PTSD because every individual experiences the condition differently. That said, there are certain medications that are commonly prescribed for the condition, including SSRIs, SNRISs, and TCAs. If you think you may be suffering from complex PTSD, we encourage you to speak with a mental health professional who can help you determine which medication may be right for you.

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