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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

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Blog Posts
  • Sep 15, 2017
Telepsychiatry: Advances and Challenges

The use of telepsychiatry is increasing in the primary care settings, including pediatrician’s offices, and in schools where psychiatrists or other mental health professionals can collaborate with teachers and other school staff.

  • Sep 14, 2017
Losing a Sibling to Suicide

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time for mental health advocates and professionals, survivors, allies and community members to raise awareness, share resources and work to prevent suicide.

  • Sep 05, 2017
National Recovery Month 2017: Focusing on Access to Care in Rural Areas

September is National Recovery Month, sponsored annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Recovery Month is intended to raise awareness of mental health and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.

Upcoming Events
Sep
2017
01
Recovery Month
  • Fri,  Sep  01 - Sat,  Sep  30

SAMHSA

Sep
2017
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Mental Health America

Sep
2017
01
Find local events and support
  • Fri,  Sep  01 - Sat,  Sep  30

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Sep
2017
01
Find a local support group
  • Fri,  Sep  01 - Sat,  Sep  30

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

Oct
2017
18
Annual San Antonio Combat PTSD Conference
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Wed,  Oct  18 - Thur,  Oct  19
Oct
2017
19
2017 Trauma and Dissociation Conference
  • Seattle, Wash.
  • Thur,  Oct  19 - Tue,  Aug  22

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

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About the Expert:

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

More stories

Jared’s Story

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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. More

Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Editor's Choice

AUG 9, 2017

PTSD affects more than just veterans

Herald Palladium

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is perhaps most associated with military veterans returning home after combat. But any traumatic event can lead to the disorder. Seventy percent of the adult population in the United States has experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives, according to PTSD United, a nonprofit that provides support and resources for sufferers of PTSD, and their families and caregivers.

AUG 7, 2017

Columbia University studying horse therapy for veterans with PTSD

NorthJersey.com

Researchers are hoping that when man and beast find common ground, through a series of guided interactions such as grooming the horse and leading it around a ring, it will help treat PTSD. Columbia University is conducting one of the first such university-led studies of horse-assisted therapy with veterans who have PTSD at the Bergen Equestrian Center in Leonia.

AUG 10, 2017

As Fear Of Deportations Rises, Children Show Signs Of PTSD

Texas Public Radio

Deportations today are up from years ago. Data from the Department of Homeland Security shows that deportations have risen by almost 38 percent from 2016. This ramping up often translates in elevated levels of stress and anxiety in thousands of Texas children. Rice University researcher Luz Garcini just released a study featured in The American Journal of Psychiatry looking precisely at rising stress among immigrant children.

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 Review By:

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
July 2015