Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can occur after you have experienced a traumatic event. PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but may be delayed several months or years. Symptoms also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work/home life, you probably have PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event, avoiding places or things that remind you of the event, a shift to more negative thoughts and feelings, feeling numb, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). If you think you have PTSD, it is important to get treatment. There are good treatments available for PTSD -- treatment can help you get better.
You may be wondering if you have symptoms of PTSD. In order to develop PTSD, a person must have experienced a trauma. Almost everyone who experiences trauma will experience some symptoms as a result. Yet most people do not develop PTSD. If you have experienced trauma, you may want to undergo screening in order to determine whether you have PTSD. A screen is a very short list of questions which helps to determine whether a person needs to be assessed further. A positive screen does not mean a person has PTSD. A positive screen means that this person should be assessed further by a mental health provider. My HealtheVet offers a confidential, anonymous screen for PTSD. None of the results are stored or sent anywhere. You can choose to print a copy of the results for your own records or to give to your physician or a mental health professional.
VA Programs & Services
Evidence-based psychotherapy is the most-highly recommended treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is one of many effective treatments for PTSD. Each VA medical center offers one or more specific evidence-based psychotherapies for PTSD. Many medical centers and clinics provide other treatments and additional psychotherapy services for posttraumatic stress (in addition to those below).
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a structured, psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD. It involves teaching individuals to identify how traumatic experiences have impacted their thinking. It also teaches individuals to evaluate and change their thoughts. CPT usually takes 12 sessions and can be delivered in individual or group format. The goal in CPT is that clients learn to have more healthy and balanced beliefs about themselves, others and the world.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy is an individual treatment for PTSD and related problems. PE typically lasts for 10-15 sessions and has been shown to work for a number of individuals with varying traumas. During treatment, clients will learn about PTSD: its causes, symptoms, and the reasons you are continuing to have symptoms. In later sessions, clients start facing safe situations that they have stayed away from because they trigger memories of a trauma. These steps will begin a process of recovery and improving the quality of your life.
- VA PTSD Program Locator: The program locator will help you find local VA PTSD programs.
- National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD): This website contains in-depth information on PTSD and traumatic stress. You can find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about PTSD; Fact Sheets on Common Reactions; information about the Effects of Trauma on Family and Friends; and much more.
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy: The VA provides at least one of two evidence based treatments for PTSD at all VA Medical Centers and to its network of Community Based Outpatient Clinics via clinical video technology. These effective therapies are Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy.
- Vet Centers: Vet Centers are located in your community and stand ready to help you and your family with readjustment counseling and outreach services. Services include individual and group counseling, marital and family counseling, medical and benefits referrals, and employment counseling.
- MyHealtheVet - PTSD: This site provides basic information on diagnosis, symptoms and treatment.
- MakeTheConnection.net: Visit this site to view hundreds of stories from Veterans of all service eras who have overcome mental health challenges. MakeTheConnection.net is a one-stop resource where Veterans and their families and friends can privately explore information on mental health issues, hear fellow Veterans and their families share their stories of resilience, and easily find and access the support and resources they need.
- Watch video testimonials from Veterans who have overcome PTSD, and to learn more about PTSD, its symptoms, and treatment.
Articles & Fact Sheets
- Facing Bad Memories at the Wall…and Moving On, Leaving PTSD Behind: In this article, Vietnam Veteran Paul Middleton shares his story of recovery from PTSD.
- Facing Down PTSD, Vet is Now Soaring High: This article tells the story of Vietnam Veteran Steven Kraus, who reached out to the VA for help, and successfully recovered from PTSD.
- Treatment of PTSD Fact Sheet: This fact sheet explains some of the different approaches that are widely used to treat PTSD. It also contains information on what to expect during treatment such as, treatment duration, what you will work on in therapy, and what you can expect from your therapist.
- Children Coping with Deployment: This fact sheet provides some general information on how to talk to children about deployment.
- After Deployment: This site is a behavioral health resource supporting service members, their families, and Veterans with common post-deployment challenges. Their mission is to provide self-care solutions targeting PTSD, depression, and other behavioral health challenges.
- Real Warriors: This site is part of the Real Warriors Campaign launched to promote the process of building resilience, facilitating recovery and supporting reintegration of returning service members, Veterans and their families. The site contains information for a number of audiences including Veterans, Active Duty, Families and Health Professionals.
- Children and Teens: Web Resources: This web page provides a list of links that offer information specific to children and teenagers dealing with trauma.
- Sesame Workshop: “When Families Grieve”: When Families Grieve is a continuation of Sesame Workshop’s award-winning Talk, Listen, Connect initiative, providing resources and emotional support to military families with young children coping with a challenging life transition.
- The Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Suicide Prevention, in partnership with Kognito, brings to families, friends, co-workers and Veterans an interactive video game designed to help build skills supporting Veterans through post-deployment stress. Family of Heroes puts participants in a fun (and free) virtual environment where they can “talk” and respond to common challenges. A virtual coach offers tips along the way.