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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

  • Oct 23, 2018
Emotional Support a Critical Part of Care for Breast Cancer Survivors

Women diagnosed with breast cancer not only face the physical challenges of the cancer and the treatment, but also often experience psychological distress and symptoms of anxiety and depression. As the American Cancer Society notes, some amount of depression, anxiety, and fear is normal, and some women are more affected than others.

  • Oct 10, 2018
Focusing on Preventing Veteran Suicide

Suicide among veterans is a national concern—from 2008 to 2016, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide each year. Address the problem and preventing suicide is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In September, the VA released national and state-level findings from its most recent analysis of veteran suicide data, from 2005 to 2016.

  • Oct 08, 2018
The Psychological Effects of Sexual Assault

A sexual assault experienced by either you or a loved one can evoke a variety of reactions. To avoid confusion about what can be called a sexual assault, the U.S. Justice Department recently defined it as any sexual act you do not consent to, “including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.”

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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


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.

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OCTOBER 11, 2018

Local veteran hoping to change the PTSD conversation while cruising...


It's not a comfortable topic for conversation, but PTSD is real, it's affecting veterans and it's affecting veterans in our community. A new way to get the conversation flowing is currently maneuvering around the Duke City on four wheels. You may notice it around town—the idea comes from a man who served multiple tours in Iraq as a hospital corpsman. Himself continued to battle PTSD for years, Kano Williams is trying to save veterans' lives and get people talking about PTSD by using his car, and the real and powerful images depicted on it.

OCTOBER 11, 2018

Keira Knightley Talks PTSD, Dealing With Early Fame

As she tells The Hollywood Reporter, she was diagnosed with PTSD after having “a mental breakdown at 22.” Being in the tabloids was hard to deal with as well. “I didn’t handle it well," she reveals. "It was a really rude awakening to he world of misogyny… I never experienced that level of hatred on a day-to-day basis. There was a sense of, like, battle every day of leaving the house.” After her PTSD diagnosis, the actress took a much-needed year off.

OCTOBER 5, 2018

From cuddles to counting - PTSD coping strategies shared

BBC News

When a woman in Taupo, New Zealand, wrote about the love and support of her husband during her night terrors and dark days of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), she didn't expect the huge reaction that followed. Christine Welten, who posted on Reddit about how much she appreciated her husband telling her it was OK to wake him up for cuddles, said: "I actually initially created my post more to highlight my husband's amazing nature, than my battle with PTSD." But it soon became apparent that she had touched a lot of people also struggling with the disorder, people who were inspired to share their stories. Her post received more than 25,000 upvotes in 10 days.

JULY 26, 2018

Former Seattle first responder raising nationwide awareness about PTSD


Jeff Shepard spent 18 years as a first responder in the Seattle area. He recently returned from a national tour visiting other fire and police departments raising awareness for PTSD.

JULY 24, 2018

PTSD: It's Not Just for Veterans


All this isn't to say that there aren't veterans who, because of and only because of their traumas in the military suffer—its only to highlight that many veterans and non-veterans all suffer trauma and many veterans suffer traumas in part, because of non-military related issues.

JULY 22, 2018

Honest talk about PTSD

The Houston Chronicle

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can be caused by a constellation of circumstances — some affecting millions of folks, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks; others intensely personal, such as a sexual assault, bullying or physical trauma from a sports-related injury or car accident. It's commonly found in victims of gun violence, combat veterans and first responders. In short, PTSD can happen to anyone.


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