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Misc. News : Non-food Things Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: What you need to know
By National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Mar 13, 2007 - 2:18:02 PM

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Editor's note: A new study has found that mental health and psychosocial problems including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are diagnosed in 31 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. For a full report on the study, read Mental Health Woes Afflict Almost a Third of Iraq, Afghan Vets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. A traumatic event is a life-threatening event such as combat, disasters, serious accidents, or assault. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD.

People with PTSD experience three different kinds of symptoms. The first set of symptoms involves reliving the trauma in some way such as becoming upset when confronted with a traumatic reminder or thinking about the trauma when you are trying to do something else. The second set of symptoms involves either staying away from places or people that remind you of the trauma, isolating from other people, or feeling numb. The third set of symptoms includes things such as feeling on guard, irritable, or startling easily.

In addition to the symptoms described above, we now know that there are clear biological changes that are associated with PTSD. PTSD is complicated by the fact that people with PTSD often may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other physical and mental health problems. These problems may lead to impairment of the person's ability to function in social or family life, including job instability, marital problems and family problems.

For a more detailed definition, please see our fact sheet What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What treatments are available for PTSD?

There are now effective treatments for PTSD. Acting early may prevent PTSD from becoming worse and causing problems in your career and relationships. PTSD is treated by a variety of forms of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and pharmacotherapy (medication). There is no single best treatment, but some treatments appear to be quite promising, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT includes a number of diverse but related techniques such as cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

For more information on treatment see our fact sheet on Treatment for PTSD

How do I locate specialists or support groups for PTSD?

If you are in an immediate crisis, please go to your nearest Emergency Room or call 911.

Although the Center does not provide any direct clinical care, we provide links and information to help you locate mental health services in your area. See our fact sheets on:

- Finding a Therapist

- Treatment for PTSD

I am an American Veteran. Who do I contact for help with PTSD?

You can contact your local VA Hospital or Veterans Center located in your telephone book, or call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll free at 1-877-222-VETS. In addition to its medical centers, VA also has many CBOCs (Community Based Outpatient Clinics) around each state so you can look for one in your community. You can also use any of the information on treatment for the general public.

For online help, the VA also offers the MyHealtheVet and Seamless Transition websites. Please also see Specialized PTSD Treatment Programs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

As an American Veteran, how do I file a claim for disability due to PTSD?

A determination of "service-connected" disability for PTSD is made by the Compensation and Pension Service -- an arm of VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. The clinicians who provide care for veterans in VA's specialized PTSD clinics and Vet Centers do not make this decision. A formal request ("claim") must be filed by the veteran using forms provided by the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. After the forms are completely submitted, the veteran must complete interviews concerning her or his "social history" (a review of family, work, and educational experiences before, during, and after military service) and "psychiatric status" (a review of past and current psychological symptoms, and of traumatic experiences during military service). The forms and information about the application process can be obtained from Benefits Officers at any VA Medical Center, Outpatient Clinic, or Regional Office.

The process of applying for a VA disability for PTSD can take several months, and can be both complicated and quite stressful. The Veteran's Service Organizations (VSOs) provide "Service Officers" at no cost to help veterans and family members pursue VA disability claims. Service Officers are familiar with every step in the application and interview process, and can provide both technical guidance and moral support. In addition, some Service Officers particularly specialize in assisting veterans with PTSD disability claims. Even if a veteran has not been a member of a specific Veterans Service Organization, the veteran still can request the assistance of a Service Officer working for that organization. In order to get representation by a qualified and helpful Service Officer, you can directly contact the local office of any Veterans Service Organization -- or ask for recommendations from other veterans who have applied for VA disability, or from a PTSD specialist at a VA PTSD clinic or a Vet Center.

Do you have brochures/handouts/videos available?

Any material on our website are free for you to use, reproduce, and distribute as needed (in the Public Domain). The National Center for PTSD's website contains information created by experts: fact sheets, handouts, award winning educational videos, web based course material (PTSD 101), manuals, guides, and MORE! These materials cover a range of audiences (veterans, families, clinicians, health care providers, researchers) and a range of topics (war, natural disaster, terrorism, assault and abuse).

Does the National Center for PTSD publish any journals? How do I subscribe?

Yes, the National Center publishes some regular publications, and our staff regularly publishes in major journals. All are available to download from our website. Use our advanced search to locate articles and chapters written by staff at the National Center for PTSD.

The PTSD Research Quarterly contains review articles on specific topics related to PTSD, written by guest experts. Each article contains a selective bibliography with abstracts and a supplementary list of annotated citations.

The PTSD Clinical Forum, new in 2006, includes invited articles, regularly appearing columns from leaders in the field, a "Clinician's Corner," and brief "Updates" to address the needs of clinicians and program administrators, providing the latest theoretical, treatment, assessment, and programmatic developments in the field of trauma, readjustment, and PTSD.

The NCPTSD Clinical Quarterly archives are available (1990-2003). The CQ was published by our Education Division and addressed the needs of practicing PTSD clinicians and program administrators.

To subscribe to these publications see Subscribe to NCPTSD Publications LINK.

How do I locate books on PTSD?

You can contact your local library for books, articles, etc. on trauma, PTSD, and related subjects. The National Center for PTSD provides the PILOTS database: an electronic index to the worldwide literature on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental-health consequences of exposure to traumatic events. It is used to search for citation information and electronic links to full text articles. The National Center for PTSD's Resource Center houses this information at our Executive Division in VT. Also see our recommended reading lists.

I am a professional who would like to know what training is available from the National Center for PTSD.

The National Center for PTSD now offers PTSD 101, an online modular web-based training course on traumatic stress. Many other training videos and materials are also available on our site. Our Education Division offers an on-site clinical training program in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress. The training program is 35 hours long, and is approved for category 1 continuing medical education credit. We also provide Postdoctoral Fellowship Programs and Internships.

For more information, see Training Opportunities at NCPTSD. LINK

As a professional, I need to locate a specific assessment instrument for PTSD. How do I do that?

Assessment instruments created by National Center for PTSD staff, such as: the CAPS, CAPS-CA, and TESI-C, can be requested online through the National Center for PTSD website. For more information on these and other measures, see our Assessment section.

The common questions and answers about PTSD are cited in verbatim from National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder for those who want to know more about the mental disorder.


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