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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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Upcoming Events
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PTSD Awareness Month
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NAMI National Convention
  • Washington, D.C.
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Find local events and support
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National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

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

MAY 25, 2017

Lebanon officer shares her story about overcoming PTSD

WRTV Indianapolis

A Boone County family with deep roots in law enforcement is using Mental Health Awareness month to share their story about overcoming some of life’s darkest moments. Taylor Nielsen was working as an evidence technician for the Lebanon Police Department in February 2016 when a 31-year-old mother and her 4-year-old son were found fatally shot inside their Zionsville home. In the months that followed that murder, Taylor said she became depressed and started having nightmares and suicidal thoughts.

MAY 25, 2017

Female veteran finds solace from PTSD in support group

Shreveport Times

Her thoughts — and her actions while on duty — caught up with her in peace time. Several years after returning to the United States, Hall was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder — a diagnosis that started her on a healing journey. She joined the Overton-Brooks VA Medical Center’s only female PTSD support group in 2013. Through the group, she’s connected with other female veterans who have suffered significant trauma. And she’s realized she is no longer alone.

MAY 21, 2017

Disasters Tied to Alcohol Abuse, PTSD in Young Victims

Medscape

Adolescents with high exposure to major disasters have elevated levels of alcohol abuse and emotional trauma compared with their peers with lower exposure to these events, new research shows.

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