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.
To meet a diagnosis of PTSD these symptoms must also interfere with one's functioning.
What About Co-occurring 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.
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.
Treating Veterans with PTSD?
The PTSD Consultation Program can help. Expert clinicians at the National Center for PTSD are available to consult about assessment, treatment, medications, resources, program development, educational options, and collaborating with VA on the care of Veterans with PTSD. Consultation services are free. Email PTSDconsult@va.gov or call 866-948-7880. Download and print PTSD consultation Program Flyer.
Assessing the Symptoms:
There are many tools for assessing PTSD symptoms. The Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD) 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.
Help with Assessment:
The PTSD Consultation Program is available to help providers who are screening and assessing Veterans for PTSD. They can answer administration or scoring questions about the measures available from the National Center for PTSD. Consultation services are free. Email PTSDconsult@va.gov or call 866-948-7880.
Learn more about assessing for PTSD and additional screening tools at the National Center for PTSD website.
Check out these websites for handouts and videos that describe PTSD and treatments for PTSD:
The National Center for PTSD has developed five animated whiteboard videos for patients on PTSD and effective treatment:
National Center for PTSD: Family and Friends
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.
Best Practices in PTSD Care
PTSD Online Training:
Psychotherapy, Online Training:
Professional PTSD Consultation:
The PTSD Consultation Program offers free consultation to community providers who treat Veterans! Expert PTSD clinicians at the National Center for PTSD are available to help with any question related to PTSD and Veterans, including:
Consultation services are free. Email PTSDconsult@va.gov or call 866-948-7880
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.
Need Help Collaborating with VA?
Consultants at the PTSD Consultation Program are available to assist providers in finding contacts at their local VA, understanding the kinds of treatments offered in VA, and referring Veterans to VA care including higher levels of care like residential treatment programs. Consultations are free. Email PTSDconsult@va.gov or call 866-948-7880
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 PTSDpubs 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.
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.
PsychArmor: This national non-profit organization is dedicated to bridging the military-civilian divide through free online education. PsychArmor has an online course focused on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
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:
Online Version – PTSD Coach Online:
Inspired by the app, PTSD Coach Online takes many of the symptom management tools from PTSD Coach and makes them available on a desktop computer. In addition, PTSD Coach includes tools that allow users to look at “big picture” issues like assertiveness, goal setting, and problem solving.
Find PTSD Coach Online at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/ptsdcoachonline/default.htm