While effective treatment options are available for the eight million diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, many have a hard time seeking help. In an overhauling study, researchers uncovered invaluable intervention methods that could restructure the way veterans and civilians receive help.

Psychological scientists from Pennsylvania and Australia accumulated data by tracking patients receiving prolonged exposure therapy, called PE, where the participants experienced real-life and made-up settings with situations, places, and people they avoid.

These uncomfortable exposures were repeated over and over. After enough reptition, the subjects' fear of experiencing harm from perceived threats was reduced. This method is just one example of a therapy not used enough in patients.

Over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 20 percent of veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to a Congressional Research Service study, and these number go up as the number of traumatic brain injuries accumulate. The most shocking statistic was that 50 percent with PTSD do not attempt to seek treatment.

"Not counting traumatic events that are experienced by individuals as opposed to entire populations, the number of people who need help for their PTSD and related symptoms is mind boggling," researchers wrote in their study.

Researchers have also pointed out that years of receiving PE in addition to cognitive behavioral therapies, CBT, also improved distressful and debilitating problems that many trauma victims face.

Unfortunately, many of these evidence-based treatments are not widely used, according to researchers, because some clinicians are highly under-trained or skeptical and concerned about the mounting costs that come with it.

The researchers also demonstrated that civilians struggling with severe PTSD, such as survivors of childhood abuse, could also benefit from PE therapy by having them learn tolerance to distress and labeling and managing emotions. This approach is currently not being implemented in clinical settings for patients with complicated conditions of PTSD.

"PTSD treatment researchers are acutely aware of the tremendous need to disseminate effective treatments widely such that patients have access to them, and are also aware of the challenges to successfully meet this need," the authors added.

The findings appear in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.