Behavior Therapy for Crime Victims

A new study shows victims of crime who resolved their sleep disturbances also showed an improvement in anxiety and depression associated with post traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers in New Mexico recruited 62 participants to receive treatment by a sleep specialist during three weekly sessions. The sessions were designed to effectively control nightmares and insomnia. Participants worked with a sleep specialist using cognitive imagery to manage unpleasant images in dreams and to practice pleasant imagery while awake. For insomnia, patients received instruction on sleep habits and behaviors, sleep restriction and cognitive therapy to change beliefs and behaviors that lead to poor sleep habits.

At the end of the study, participants demonstrated moderate to large improvements in nightmare frequency and insomnia, which was associated with a decrease in psychiatric distress. By improving the quality of sleep habits, researchers believe these patients feel less psychiatric distress. By gaining cognitive control over nightmares, the participants also felt less distress during the day. Researchers also say normalizing sleep patterns appeared to provide psychological benefits to the patients.

Lead study author says, “PTSD patients with sleep complaints may benefit from treatment options that go beyond conventional psychotherapy or medications, such as evidence-based cognitive behavior therapies for nightmares and insomnia.”

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