NICE clinical guidelines
Issued: March 2005
CG26

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): The management of PTSD in adults and children in primary and secondary care

This is an extract from the guidance. The complete guidance is available at guidance.nice.org.uk/cg26

Key priorities for implementation

Initial response to trauma

  • For individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, the systematic provision to that individual alone of brief, single-session interventions (often referred to as debriefing) that focus on the traumatic incident, should not be routine practice when delivering services.

  • Where symptoms are mild and have been present for less than 4 weeks after the trauma, watchful waiting, as a way of managing the difficulties presented by people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), should be considered. A follow-up contact should be arranged within 1 month.

Trauma-focused psychological treatment

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy should be offered to those with severe post-traumatic symptoms or with severe PTSD in the first month after the traumatic event. These treatments should normally be provided on an individual outpatient basis.

  • All people with PTSD should be offered a course of trauma-focused psychological treatment (trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT] or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing [EMDR]). These treatments should normally be provided on an individual outpatient basis.

Children and young people

  • Trauma-focused CBT should be offered to older children with severe post-traumatic symptoms or with severe PTSD in the first month after the traumatic event.

  • Children and young people with PTSD, including those who have been sexually abused, should be offered a course of trauma-focused CBT adapted appropriately to suit their age, circumstances and level of development.

Drug treatments for adults

  • Drug treatments for PTSD should not be used as a routine first-line treatment for adults (in general use or by specialist mental health professionals) in preference to a trauma-focused psychological therapy.

  • Drug treatments (paroxetine or mirtazapine for general use, and amitriptyline or phenelzine for initiation only by mental health specialists) should be considered for the treatment of PTSD in adults who express a preference not to engage in trauma-focused psychological treatment[1].

Screening for PTSD

  • For individuals at high risk of developing PTSD following a major disaster, consideration should be given (by those responsible for coordination of the disaster plan) to the routine use of a brief screening instrument for PTSD at 1 month after the disaster.



[1] Paroxetine is the only drug listed with a current UK product licence for PTSD at the date of publication (March 2005).