A male shows painful facial expression covering his ears with a pillow and lies in the bed.
Understanding the Military Experience
PTSD Mini-Clinic
  • PTSD Basics
  • Assessing for PTSD
  • Client Educational Materials
  • Treatment and Training
  • Referring to VA
  • Online Resources
  • Cool Tool

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event or life-threatening event like war, assault, or disaster. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions (such as upsetting memories of the event, increased jumpiness, or trouble sleeping) don't go away over time or disrupt one's life, he or she may have PTSD.

Most people (60% of men and 50% of women) experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. While around 7% of people in the general population will go on to develop a diagnostic level of PTSD symptoms, for combat Veterans estimates range between 10-15%.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD is characterized by four clusters of symptoms: Re-experiencing, avoidance, negative changes in mood and thoughts, and hyperarousal.
  • Re-experiencing symptoms include intrusive thoughts of the traumatic experience, nightmares, and having physical or emotional reactions to reminders of the event.
  • Avoidance symptoms include avoiding people, places, or activities that remind one of the trauma and emotional numbing.
  • Negative changes in one's thoughts or moods that began or worsened after the event.
  • Hyperarousal symptoms include feeling on edge, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance and startle reactions

To meet a diagnosis of PTSD these symptoms must also interfere with one's functioning.

What About Co-occuring Conditions?

PTSD often co-occurs with other conditions such as Depression, Substance Use, mTBI, and Pain. Visit the VA's National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) to download materials on co-occurring conditions.

Veteran Stories:

Visit the NCPTSDs About Face website to learn about PTSD from Veterans who live with it every day. Hear their stories and find out how treatment turned their lives around.

Assessing for PTSD

Assessing the Symptoms:

There are many tools for assessing PTSD symptoms. The Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD) Screen is brief, problem-focused and intended to help you to determine if further assessment, treatment, or referrals are needed. This screen can be given by you (the provider) or given to the Veteran as a self-report measure.

Discussing the Results:

We have put together a PC-PTSD Screen Feedback handout to guide feedback for the PC-PTSD screen.

Learn More:

Learn more about assessing for PTSD and additional screening tools at the National Center for PTSD website.

Client Educational Materials

Check out these websites for downloadable patient handouts that describe PTSD and treatments for PTSD:

Treatment and Training

There are a number of treatments available for PTSD. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report that concluded that the most effective treatments for PTSD are trauma focused therapies such as Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy. To understand more about these treatments as well as other treatments for PTSD read the National Center for PTSD Understanding Treatment handout. You may also be interested in viewing an overview course on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment for PTSD.

PTSD Online Training:

Psychotherapy, Online Training:

Psychopharmacological Treatments:

Professional PTSD Consultation:

The VA PTSD Consultation Program now offers limited consults to community providers! Professionals who work with people who have been through trauma, need advice from time to time. Perhaps the VA PTSD Consultation Program can help. This program was initially created for VA staff. Now senior PTSD clinicians at the National Center for PTSD can provide consultation to anyone working with Veterans with PTSD, including:

  • Advice on referring a Veteran into VA PTSD care
  • Answers to general questions about PTSD and effective treatments
Email, ptsdconsult@va.gov or call 1-866-948-7880. Please note: We cannot provide consults on individual cases to non-VA providers.

Referring to VA

What Should I Consider When Referring?

If your client screens positive for PTSD, they may be referred to specialized PTSD treatment, behavioral medicine, or more general mental health services for further evaluation and possible treatment. Please see our section on Connecting with VA for more information.

You can also find more information regarding services and programs available to those who screen positive for PTSD on the National Center for PTSD website, in the 'Where to Get Help' section.

Finally, the PTSD Program Locator can help you to find a program at a VA Medical Center located near you.

Online Resources

National Center for PTSD: A goldmine of materials and resources about PTSD for provider and client. For an electronic index of Traumatic Stress Literature, please see the PILOTS Database. Earn free CE/CMEs at PTSD Continuing Education.

AboutFace: Learn about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from Veterans who live with it every day. Hear their stories. Find out how treatment turned their lives around.

After Deployment: Information and materials on PTSD and other associated conditions for the Veteran and his/her family.

Make the Connection: Veteran stories and educational information about a variety of signs, symptoms, and conditions for your client. This site also provides direction for the Veteran about next steps to take to seek treatment or resources.


Cool Tool

Mobile App - PTSD Coach:

This app was developed to assist Veterans and Active Duty personnel (and civilians) who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD. It is intended to be used as an adjunct to psychological treatment but can also serve as a stand-alone education tool.

Key features of the app include:

  • Self-Assessment: Self-assessment of PTSD symptoms with individualized feedback, and ability to track changes in symptoms over time. The assessment does not formally diagnose PTSD.
  • Manage Symptoms: Coping skills and assistance for common kinds of posttraumatic stress symptoms and problems, including systematic relaxation and self-help techniques.
  • Find Support: Assistance in finding immediate support. The app enables individuals to identify personal sources of emotional support, populate the phone with those phone numbers, and link to treatment programs. And in an emergency, users can quickly link to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
  • Learn about PTSD: Education about key topics related to trauma, PTSD, and treatment.

The PTSD Coach Mobile App can be found at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/materials/apps/PTSDCoach.asp