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
For a full report on the study, read
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
To subscribe to these publications see Subscribe to NCPTSD
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.
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
The common questions and answers about PTSD are cited in
Stress Disorder for those who want to know more about the mental disorder.