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What is PTSD?

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sad guyPost-traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that can occur after you have experienced a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something that you see or that happens to you that is horrible and scary. You may have felt that your life or others’ lives were in danger. You may feel that you have no control over what is happening. Events that cause PTSD often include:

  • Combat and military exposure
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Child sexual or physical abuse
  • Serious accidents
  • Natural disasters

After an event like this, you may feel scared, confused, or angry. If these feelings don’t go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms can disrupt your life, and make it hard to continue with your daily activities.

Many people who develop PTSD get better at some time. But about 1 out of 3 people with PTSD may continue to have some symptoms. Even if you continue to have symptoms, treatment can help you cope. Your symptoms don’t have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They 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 or home life, you probably have PTSD.

The 4 Symptoms of PTSD:

  • Reliving the event: bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may have nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger — a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event, e.g. hearing a car backfire could remind you of gunfire.
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event: you may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. For example, you may not wish to get together with service members with whom you were deployed.  Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.
  • Feeling numb: another way of avoiding memories is to stop expressing your feelings. You may stay away from relationships or not show interest in activities you used to enjoy. You also may not have positive feelings toward other people.
  • Feeling keyed up: you may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyper-arousal. It can cause you to become angry or irritable, have a hard time sleeping or concentrating, and fear for your safety while constantly feeling on guard.

PTSD can also manifest itself in other problems, such as:

  • Feelings of shame, despair, or hopelessness
  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Relationship problems including domestic violence
  • Employment problems


Dealing with the past can be difficult, but it is not healthy to keep feelings bottled up. Treatment can help you get better. Within VA, each medical center has PTSD specialists who treat Veterans. In addition, the VA has nearly 200 specialized treatment programs for PTSD. Use this locator to find the program nearest you: http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/PTSD.asp

Note: If you need immediate assistance, call 911 or the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

Services Offered:

  • One-on-one mental health assessment
  • One-on-one psychotherapy and family therapy
  • Medicine
  • Group therapy

Who is covered? All veterans who have:

  • Completed active military service in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard (and Merchant Marines during WWII)
  • Been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable
  • Been members of the National Guard or Reserves and completed a federal deployment to a combat zone.