Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by experiencing traumatic events, such as combat, disasters, terrorism, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault. PTSD includes three types of symptoms:
Re-experiencing or reliving the trauma, such as having flashbacks, nightmares, or becoming very upset when reminded of the trauma.
Avoiding or staying away from places or people because they remind you of the trauma, isolating from others, and/or feeling numb.
Experiencing increased arousal such as being on guard, being irritable, having trouble sleeping, or startling easily.
After a trauma it is normal to have painful memories and to become upset when reminded of what happened. For most these reactions lessen over time and thinking returns to normal. For some, however, reactions continue and are severe; they disrupt living, and beliefs remain negative and intense. How people respond to these early, normal reactions can, in part, determine if PTSD develops. For example, because memories and reminders of the trauma are painful it makes sense to want to avoid them. However too much avoidance can prevent a person from adequately dealing with the memories and reminders and making sense of what happened. This may lead normal trauma reactions to become more lasting PTSD symptoms.
Although most people recover after a trauma it is not uncommon for people to develop PTSD. About 7% of the general US population will have PTSD in their lifetime, with women being more than twice as likely to develop it as men. Following a trauma it can be expected that around 20% of women and 8% of men will develop PTSD. Certain types of trauma, such as sexual assault and combat, can cause even higher rates. TBI and PTSD have been called the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan due to the frequent and powerful blasts experienced in the field; an injury not commonly seen before.
PTSD symptoms usually appear very soon after experiencing a trauma. Other problems also commonly accompany PTSD. These include depression, other anxiety disorders, and alcohol and substance abuse. In fact more than half of men with PTSD have alcohol problems and nearly half of women with PTSD have depression. PTSD can also reduce one's ability to function in their relationships, at work and school, and in leisure activities. In addition, people with PTSD may suffer physical symptoms and may be at increased risk of medical problems.
Developing PTSD is not a sign of weakness; anyone can develop PTSD, but it can be treated with talk therapy or medication, or a combination of both. The VA provides nearly 200 specialized PTSD treatment programs and each VA Medical Center has PTSD specialists who can assist in providing treatment for veterans.
A referral is usually needed to access the specialty programs. Please visit US Veterans Administration PTSD Program Locator to see if there is a specialized program near you. Not all VA facilities offer the same programs. Ask your doctor to help you decide which program is best for you.
If you are in crisis, please call 911, go to your nearest emergency room or call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1 (800) 273-8255 (for veterans and service members, please press 1
If you just want to talk, call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center at 1 (800) 927-8387 to talk to another combat veteran.
Please visit to see if there is a specialized program near you.
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