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Help With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Jun 21, 2018
Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD

New research has found that one common treatment for PTSD, prolonged exposure therapy, can be effective in a shorter, more intense format, making it potentially more acceptable and accessible to more people needing treatment.

  • Jun 12, 2018
Increase in Suicides Highlights Need for Comprehensive Prevention Efforts

Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in the U.S. in 2016, and the suicide rate continues to rise, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In more than half the states, suicide rates have increased more than 30 percent since 1999, and the overall U.S. rate of suicide has increased every year since 2006.

  • May 23, 2018
"The Tale" Dramatizes Trauma from Sexual Assault, but Viewers Should Know that Help is Available

"The Tale," a new movie starring Laura Dern that will air on HBO on May 26, presents a compelling exploration of memory, sexual abuse and the resulting trauma from a patient’s perspective. Viewers should know that treatment options and resources exist and are available for anyone experiencing a similar situation.

Upcoming Events
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2018
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2018
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National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

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Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

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Mental Health America Annual Conference
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  • Thur,  Jun  14 - Sat,  Jun  16
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2018
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NAMI National Convention
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Are there physical problems that are commonly associated with PTSD?

In addition to the thoughts and feelings identified in the What is PTSD? section, people with PTSD may also experience physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, fatigue, muscle tension, nausea, joint pain, headaches, back pain or other types of pain. The person in pain may not realize the connection between their pain and a traumatic event. For people with chronic pain, the pain may actually serve as a reminder of the traumatic event, which in turn may intensify PTSD symptoms. Some people who develop PTSD and chronic pain also experience depression and alcohol and prescription medication misuse. Chronic PTSD has been shown to increase the risk of having a variety of health issues and decreased life expectancy. More

My spouse has just been diagnosed with PTSD, how can I best help?

A person contending with exposure to a traumatic event may feel helpless, prompting a concerned spouse to want to take action to help. Perhaps the most powerful approach is to just be there for the person, show acceptance and concern, and listen without being judgmental or giving advice. Allow your spouse to talk about the trauma only if he or she would like to and encourage additional support from family, friends and faith and community resources. Encouraging healthy living, such as attention to diet, exercise and refraining from smoking and excessive use of alcohol, is important. It would also be a good time to plan relaxing enjoyable leisure time activities.

Take some time to educate yourself about trauma, PTSD and recovery and healing. Learning about what your spouse may be going through will help you and your family to understand better and be more supportive. Remember to take care of your own physical and mental health as well. More

Why do some people get PTSD after a traumatic event and others don't?

Studies have found that in fact most people recover and do not develop PTSD after exposure to a major traumatic event. However some people find themselves feeling worse as time passes and experience the symptoms of PTSD. Several factors before and after a traumatic event seem to increase the likelihood of PTSD. For example, the risk is greater when the traumatic event is more severe, violent, occurs over a longer period of time or involves harm to oneself or loss of a loved one. Being around reminders of the traumatic event can also increase the risk. In general women are more likely than men and younger people more likely than older to experience PTSD. People who had early childhood emotional problems, especially exposure to traumatic events, are more susceptible, as are people who suffer from chronic medical or psychiatric illness. More

What's the difference between a normal reaction to a traumatic event and PTSD?

People react to experience of trauma in a variety of ways, such as sadness, irritability and confusion. In the immediate aftermath of a major traumatic event most people complain of stress, difficulty concentrating, sleeping or getting along with others. With PTSD, the troubling symptoms worsen, affect social and work functioning, and persist longer than a month. If you or a loved one are struggling to cope with the effects of a trauma it would be useful to seek professional help. More

How can I find out more about different types of therapies and treatments for PTSD?

Several effective treatment options are available including psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure therapy (PE), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR); and medications, such as the antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Often the combination of medication and psychotherapy is more effective than either form of treatment alone.

A good overview of effective treatment options for PTSD is available from the National Center for PTSD in the publication “Understanding PTSD Treatment.” Specific treatment guidelines are available from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Information on treatment for children is available from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Self-help tools, including PTSD Coach Online and PTSD Coach app, are available from the National Center for PTSD. These offer support for coping with sadness, anxiety and other symptoms that people who have been through trauma can develop. They can help you relax when you feel stressed, improve your mood, learn how to tackle difficult problems and help change thinking patterns. More

eth-expert.jpg

About the Expert:

Spencer Eth, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry, University Miami School of Medicine
Psychiatrist with Miami VA Healthcare System

Jared’s Story

Jared was a 36-year old married veteran who had returned from Afghanistan, where he had served as an officer. He went to the Veterans Affairs outpatient mental health clinic complaining of having “a short fuse” and being “easily triggered.”

Jared's symptoms involved out-of-control rage when startled, constant thoughts and memories of death-related events, weekly vivid nightmares of combat that caused trouble sleeping, anxiety and a loss of interest in hobbies he once enjoyed with friends.

Read More

Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Editor's Choice

MAY 18, 2018

With PTSD reaching well beyond combat vets, trauma experts  see architecture as part of the solution

TSD

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When it comes to healing sanctuaries, the need is urgent for combat vets. But as more knowledge is gained about the role trauma plays in everything from poverty to drug abuse to joblessness to mental illness, the need is even more widespread for noncombat, nonmilitary PTSD sufferers. Given the preponderance of the epidemic, a growing chorus of trauma researchers decry a lack of healing spaces in American culture.

MAY 14, 2018

Preventin PTSD: calling Dr. Tetris?

STAT

Preventive psychiatry, a forgotten chapter in the history of mental health, is trying to make a comeback. One area in which it is being explored is post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition represents an excellent opportunity for prevention because of the so-called golden hours: the period between experiencing a traumatic event and the onset of PTSD. It represents a window of opportunity for medical intervention to set the brain on a path toward recovery.

MAY 14, 2018

New ICD-11 Criteria Will Reduce PTSD Diagnoses by 50%

Medscape

Proposed changes to the upcoming 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) will reduce the proportion of individuals who meet diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by about 50%, a new study suggests. "Importantly, our data suggest that ICD-11 might miss the moderate, and more easily treatable, cases of PTSD," said lead author Anna Barbano, BS, with New York University.

Resources

National Center for PTSD

Make the Connections (Dept. of Veterans Affairs)

Mental Health American (MHA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH)

Wounded Warrior Project

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)

PTSD Alliance

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
January 2017