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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

  • Feb 12, 2018
Many with PTSD Not Getting Treatment

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that affects an estimated one in 11 people at some time in their lives. Some research has found that people with PTSD access treatment even less than those with other mental health conditions, such as depression. New research looks at some of the factors related to people seeking and utilizing treatment with the hope of increasing the number of people receiving treatment

  • Feb 08, 2018
Disparities in Health Care: Race, Ethnicity and Gender

It is well-established that adults with mental health disorders spend more on medical care than adults without mental illness, and members of racial and ethnic minority groups have in the past often had less access to care. Researchers led by Judith Weissman, Ph.D., J.D. with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, New York, wanted to evaluate the impact the Affordable Care Act has had on ethnic, racial and gender disparities in access to health care among adults with mental health conditions.

  • Jan 16, 2018
What Do We Mean by "Duty to Warn"?

There has been much public misconception about “duty to warn,” the requirement of mental health professionals to warn of potential threats. In general, a duty to warn requirement applies to confidential information gained during mental health treatment and does not relate to publicly available information. Here’s a brief summary of requirements.

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Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

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.

Read More

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Editor's Choice

JAN 12, 2018

Transcendental Meditation technique offers relief for veterans suffering from PTSD

Veterans of the war in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found significant relief from their symptoms as a result of practicing the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, according to a new study published in Military Medicine.

DEC 27, 2017

Noninvasive brainwave technology improved post-traumatic stress symptoms in military

Medical Xpress

A noninvasive brainwave mirroring technology significantly reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress in military personnel in a pilot study conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The neurotechnology used in this study—high-resolution, relational, resonance-based, electroencephalic mirroring (HIRREM)—is a noninvasive, closed-loop, acoustic stimulation approach, in which computer software algorithms translate specific brain frequencies into audible tones in real time.

DEC 22, 2017

Psycho-Education: A Vital Part of Operational Firefighter Training

The fire officer did have some questions; the firefighter asked whether the “importance of training” was mental health training or operational training. I responded it was operational training with the addition of psycho-education. A hearty discussion ensued. The concept may seem simple on the surface; however, with consistent training and practice, research shows we improve our efficiency in accomplishing a task, almost automatically, at times. This contributes to our self-efficacy and, therefore, our sense of controllability (the sense that we are in control of a situation) and, according to research, this decreases our vulnerability to PTSD symptoms.



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.
July 2015