PTSD Self Test

PTSD Self Test

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Screening Test

Instructions: Below is a list of problems that people sometimes have in response to a very stressful experience. Please
read each problem carefully and then circle one of the numbers to the right to indicate how much you have been
bothered by that problem in the past month.

Step 1 of 21

4%

About Your Results

The PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, frequently referred to as the PCL-5, is a self-assessment to measure the presence and severity of PTSD symptoms. DSM-5 refers to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the standard reference used by healthcare providers to diagnose mental health and behavioral conditions.

If your responses to the PCL-5 suggest that you may suffer from PTSD, you may benefit from reaching out to a behavioral healthcare professional for help. Recovery from PTSD is possible, and is critical for a happier and more fulfilling life.

Determining Next Steps with the PCL-5

The PCL-5 is a 20-item checklist that can be used to determine the appropriate next steps or treatment options for someone who feels they may be suffering from PTSD. A total score of 33 or higher suggests that the respondent may benefit from PTSD treatment. A total score lower than 33 suggests that the respondent may not meet criteria for PTSD.

In any case, if a person feels they may struggle with PTSD, they should contact a healthcare professional for a more comprehensive assessment. The PCL-5 should not be the only assessment used to diagnose PTSD.

What is PTSD?

PTSD starts with a person suffering a trauma, but not every person who experiences trauma gets PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a combination of a traumatic ordeal that endangers the person or others and the response to the event that involves persistent fear, terror, or helplessness.

PTSD is a form of anxiety disorder, and it comes from an emotional stress overload. It is classified by mental health professionals as a Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorder.

PTSD starts with a “fight or flight” reaction in response to a highly stressful, life-threatening situation where the body generates large amounts of stress hormones. With PTSD, this “fight or flight” response can happen even at the memory of a profoundly traumatic event.

It’s common to have disturbing and distressing memories, to experience edginess, or have some sleeplessness after a traumatic incident. If these symptoms last more than several months, it could be PTSD.

Untreated PTSD can lead to other symptoms as well, including anger, hypervigilance and an increased potential for developing a substance abuse disorder. Effective treatment can help alleviate PTSD.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) affects about 45 million people in the United States today.1 Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. The socioeconomic cost to our society is tremendous due to PTSD where it is estimated that:

  • People with PTSD have among the highest rates of using healthcare services
  • The cost of PTSD-related anxiety disorders is more than $42.3 billion annually 
  • PTSD affects adults as well as children
  • Approximately 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD
  • Approximately 24 million people are suffering from PTSD right now in the United States 
  • The risk for PTSD is much higher in war veterans.2 Approx. 8 out of 100 veterans have PTSD.3

The good news is that PTSD is treatable, and a person can be restored to normal functioning with the right treatment.

Video: Understanding the Effects of PTSD

TRANSCRIPT
00:13
I’m having that identical twin sister
00:16
and my background in neuroscience is
00:20
probably giving my husband more stress
00:22
than he ever thought he knew when he
00:23
married me he thought he was getting one
00:25
person he received two they asked us
00:29
earlier this morning how we felt going
00:32
into the TED talks and one of my very
00:35
creative other presenters said feel like
00:38
Katniss going into the Hunger Games
00:42
that’s kind of what I feel like and my
00:45
subject is post-traumatic stress
00:46
disorder which I think I have today so
00:50
I’ll start out with our poem Humpty
00:52
Dumpty sat on a wall Humpty Dumpty had a
00:56
great fall all the king’s horses and all
01:00
the king’s men putting good foot Humpty
01:02
together again one moment he’s on the
01:06
wall eating a hamburger drinking a beer
01:09
talking about the Friday Night Football
01:11
game and the next minute he’s a
01:14
scrambled egg his mind his body and his
01:21
emotions are very different so this is
01:24
our active learning I want you to look
01:27
at the person to your right and to your
01:29
left and I want you to think can you
01:32
tell that this person has gone through
01:35
some really traumatic event now I’m not
01:41
going to ask you to raise your hands
01:43
but the answer is probably no because we
01:49
call it the hidden wound I like to refer
01:53
to it as the silent screen because it’s
01:56
very much in that person but most of us
02:00
can’t see it can’t hear it and can’t
02:03
feel it but they can and they’re not
02:06
going to talk about it now I have been
02:08
married to my husband for over 40 years
02:10
he’s a Vietnam vet I didn’t know him
02:13
before he went over which is probably a
02:16
good thing on the other hand I didn’t
02:18
know what normal looked like for him so
02:21
he arrived in country three weeks after
02:25
his 21st birthday he was one of the
02:27
older ones he was a second lieutenant
02:29
and on his first week there he was
02:33
sleeping in a tent with two other second
02:35
lieutenants when a rocket exploded over
02:38
their tent one person was killed one
02:44
person lost an arm a leg and he was
02:47
injured but not bad enough to be sent
02:50
back home it’s like welcome to Vietnam
02:52
and after a few weeks when he was healed
02:56
enough they sent him on his first
02:58
mission and that was out in the jungles
03:01
of Vietnam where he stayed and lived day
03:06
in and day out experiencing tremendous
03:09
high doses of traumatic events that in
03:13
dealt with life and death experiences
03:16
now we had no idea where some of his for
03:21
the first 25 years where some of his
03:24
strange over-the-top behaviors were
03:27
coming from like if he opened the
03:29
refrigerator door and there was a
03:30
certain smell that he didn’t like
03:35
he had a very abnormal event to that
03:38
having toys or materials on the floor
03:41
that shouldn’t be there not a good thing
03:44
in his eyes
03:46
now our military and our first
03:48
responders are highly trained to be an
03:50
abnormal events so that they have normal
03:53
for them responses to be able to survive
03:56
battle and even with all that training
03:59
they cannot be inoculated against
04:03
post-traumatic stress by definition
04:05
post-traumatic stress is an anxiety
04:08
disorder that develops in reaction to a
04:11
physical injury or a severe mental or
04:14
emotional distress now I’m not going to
04:16
name all the ways you can get
04:17
post-traumatic stress all you have to do
04:20
is look on your cell phone open up a a
04:23
paper turn on the news and there’s
04:25
millions of different types of ways you
04:28
can get post-traumatic stress but here’s
04:30
a fairly new one and it’s happening to
04:33
our young people
04:34
it’s called cyber bullying and cyber
04:37
bullying for a young mind puts them into
04:39
that mental and emotional distress in
04:42
Larimer County we’re not all that big we
04:45
had 81 suicides last year two of them
04:49
were 11 years old one was 12 if it takes
04:53
a village to raise a child it will take
04:56
a village to help support and heal the
04:59
wounded all of the wounded at any age in
05:01
our society and I’m going to take issue
05:04
to the word disorder we’re changing the
05:07
language because post-traumatic stress
05:09
by a neurological standpoint is not a
05:12
disorder it’s a reordering of your
05:15
neural networks and pathways and your
05:17
sensory pathways so that you can survive
05:21
in a really dangerous situation I tell
05:24
my students here at CSU that the one
05:26
reason you get a brain is not to pick
05:28
out your girlfriend for a Saturday night
05:30
date it’s much more primal than that
05:34
although that might be pretty primal
05:37
but you get it to survive the brain is
05:40
organized so you when you get in
05:43
difficult situations may live through
05:45
that difficult situation it helps you
05:47
through that and I also tell my students
05:49
experience gulps the brain good
05:52
experiences bad experiences the brain
05:54
doesn’t care all it’s doing is taking
05:56
information from the environment through
05:58
our senses sight sound touch taste smell
06:01
that lets us know we’re green light
06:04
everything’s okay we’re yellow light
06:06
that’s tolerable stress it’s actually
06:09
supposed to help us our immune system
06:11
I get that driving down the freeway and
06:13
at 80 miles an hour I see somebody
06:15
texting okay and I’m no longer in
06:19
tolerable stress I may go into that red
06:22
zone the toxic zone this is the one is
06:24
what’s happening with the brain is that
06:26
our prefrontal cortex that may not all
06:29
be all that developed anyway is now
06:31
starting to shut down I can’t get
06:33
information to it fast enough
06:34
the hippocampus is getting shorter
06:38
that’s where we have short term memory
06:40
example I got in the shower today turned
06:43
off the water and said if I wash my hair
06:45
I am Katniss in The Hunger Games and the
06:52
amygdala and the amygdala is what I call
06:54
the traffic cop it is where it starts
06:56
getting the information for all the
06:57
senses and the miracle does this Oh
07:00
goodness we’re in the red zone
07:02
I’m rallying the troops I’m telling them
07:04
to call into the hippocampus or the
07:07
hypothalamus the pituitary the adrenal
07:09
glands release those stress hormones get
07:13
me ready to fight and flight so I
07:16
release one noradrenaline epinephrine
07:21
cortisone glucose and it’s not going up
07:24
here for me to think it’s going into my
07:27
limbs so I can fight the heck out of my
07:29
way out or better yet I’m going to run
07:32
faster than any of the rest of you and
07:34
be safe now eventually our sensory
07:38
systems become a little overwhelmed
07:41
you think they become sensitized to
07:46
what’s happening so they’re easily
07:47
triggered we hear things that may not be
07:49
there
07:50
we don’t hear things that are there my
07:52
husband blames me on not hearing what
07:54
I’ve told him vision we see things that
07:58
aren’t there and we don’t see things
08:00
that are there and driving down the
08:02
highway that’s not that’s not a good
08:04
thing to have so in that brain change
08:09
the sensory system when it’s overloaded
08:11
looks like this you become
08:13
hyper-vigilant and hyper aroused so we
08:16
like to go on ski trips we started our
08:18
kids when they were toddlers and we had
08:20
to be out of the house at 6:00 in the
08:21
morning now for any of you have had
08:24
toddlers and you’re trying to get them
08:25
awake fed and dressed by 6:00 in the
08:28
morning
08:28
you better have a miracle on hand at one
08:32
minute after 6:00
08:34
my husband’s pacing at two minutes after
08:38
6:00 he’s getting a little anxious at
08:43
three minutes after 6:00
08:46
now he’s irritable and at four minutes
08:50
after 6:00 he’s found language and it
08:54
sounds like this hurry up you’re going
08:59
too slow what’s the matter with you we
09:02
planned on this last night we were going
09:04
to be in the car driving down the road
09:05
at six o’clock in the morning
09:07
well we eventually get there although I
09:11
didn’t want to be a nap car with him and
09:13
nor did my son’s and going down the road
09:18
whoa all of a sudden he’s thinking he’s
09:23
happy we’re a mess but now he’s in
09:27
control no worries we made it past the
09:32
danger no this is what we didn’t
09:34
understand we didn’t understand that in
09:37
combat if you’re late people died but
09:40
subconsciously he knew that and that he
09:42
carried with him nightmares night sweats
09:45
panic attacks insomnia which really
09:49
messes up the brain for short-term
09:50
memory and also your immune system you
09:52
kind of need sleep flashbacks another
09:56
story we like to go to allegis a big
09:59
amusement park in Denver and my boys and
10:03
myself we would juice
10:04
with neighbors and friends except for
10:06
this one Saturday and my husband decided
10:08
to go with us and we had a favorite ride
10:11
it was called the dragon it looked like
10:14
a dragon and it went up some of you may
10:16
know this came down down fast pulling
10:19
those G’s who went up came down that
10:23
we’re lovin this we had hardly wait to
10:26
get him on that ride
10:28
so we board and it goes up and it comes
10:32
down and it goes up and it comes down
10:35
and I’m look at my husband and he should
10:36
be laughing but he’s turned white to
10:40
Nash and colored and he’s starting to
10:42
say in a very anxious voice I’ve got to
10:44
get off at this right you have to make
10:48
it stop I have got to get off of this
10:50
ride and you can’t it has ten more fun
10:55
cycles as soon as he got off he ran to a
11:00
bathroom threw up came back he’s this
11:02
ashen color still and he says we have to
11:05
go home I’m really sick and we just
11:07
thought it was that hot doggy ate for
11:09
lunch make sense blaming everything on
11:12
hot dogs but this is what was really
11:15
happening that ride triggered a
11:18
flashback from when he was in Vietnam
11:20
and on one occasion he was flying right
11:24
wing in helicopters and they had gone
11:27
into a hot combat zone to remove some
11:30
wounded military they were all loaded on
11:33
the helicopter they were starting to
11:35
take off 20 30 feet off the ground he
11:38
being right-wing hadn’t quite buckled
11:40
his seatbelt when the helicopter took a
11:43
direct hit
11:45
he was blown out and when he landed he
11:51
looked at himself and he was covered in
11:53
the oil the gas and the blood of
11:57
everyone in that helicopter that was his
12:01
flashbacks that’s what that fun ride did
12:05
to him it was anything but fun
12:08
those overwhelming waves of emotion that
12:10
you would do anything to get rid of just
12:12
keep flowing the personality changes
12:14
where you’re more anxious you’re more
12:16
irritable you may become angry you may
12:20
have feelings of detachment and you want
12:22
to just isolate because you no longer
12:24
fit into that normal world you used to
12:26
but you don’t now and trying to be with
12:30
all of you when I’m not normal hey guys
12:33
you’re my triggers there are days I
12:37
don’t want to be around people and nor
12:39
does he eventually that may make us feel
12:43
different about who we are how we lived
12:46
how we proceed in our environment and if
12:50
you don’t get a handle on it this is
12:51
what happens is that your brain and your
12:54
body start to wear out high incidence of
12:57
hypertension you have chronic incidence
13:00
of strokes and different types of heart
13:04
attacks
13:05
we know we have obesity we have diabetes
13:08
we have ulcers we have chronic fatigue
13:11
symptoms there’s so many issues to our
13:13
body when it starts to wear out but this
13:16
is what we can do this is the good news
13:19
we can start healing but it’s by doing
13:22
something that helps us heal things like
13:25
we know that cognitive therapy and
13:28
feedback biofeedback work we know that
13:31
doing things like exercise helps us we
13:35
know and we’re getting smarter because
13:36
if information is coming from our body
13:38
why not start working on our body first
13:41
like massage yoga tai chi meditation
13:44
because what those are doing it’s
13:47
resetting our breathing back to normal
13:51
we take a lot of that fly-fishing
13:53
because the motion of that fly
13:57
and forth mimics that good heartbeat and
14:01
that healthy breathing we have our dog
14:04
he’s a service dog Bailey just stroking
14:06
him house so there’s all kinds of
14:08
positive things that we can do to heal
14:10
and we’ve been practicing now for years
14:12
in the end it is not in the hoping that
14:17
we might heal it is in the doing that
14:20
will help us move forward and I can tell
14:23
you at this time in our lives
14:25
Maya Angelou says when we know better we
14:28
do better we know better and we practice
14:32
hard we’re going to win that Hunger
14:35
Games we’re going to be those survivors
14:38
and in spite of those traumatic
14:44
experiences we have become stronger we
14:48
become more compassionate not more
14:50
doubtful we definitely become more
14:52
grateful for every single thing we have
14:55
in our lives in our days versus angry at
14:58
things we don’t have or may have lost
15:00
and we’ve become wiser
15:04
Marshall Probst says in wisdom you do
15:07
not receive wisdom you discover it
15:09
within yourselves after a journey that
15:12
no one can take for you or with you and
15:16
in our silence we say the serenity
15:20
prayer which calms us down and we are
15:25
learning to finally begin to bear what
15:28
it once felt so unbearable to us and to
15:31
heal what once felt so shattered thank
15:35
you
15:55
you
15:57
you

Common Causes of PTSD

Sexual Violence

One common cause of PTSD is experiencing sexual violence or assault as a child or as an adult. Any form of sexual contact that occurs without an adult’s consent or that violates a child’s or adult’s sense of control, autonomy, and command over their own body can cause PTSD.

Military Service

Throughout the 20th century, soldiers who suffered lasting mental health effects after combat were deemed to be “shell-shocked” or “battle fatigued”. We now recognize these conditions as being PTSD that comes from being in traumatizing combat events.

Natural Disaster

People who experience stressful natural disaster events such as hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes can feel overwhelmed at the sudden devastation they experienced. The initial shock can then become PTSD.

Traffic Accident

Traffic accidents happen suddenly with little or no warning. The trauma associated with a crash can lead to PTSD, particularly if the person has had past trauma(s), if the traffic accident was life-threatening, or if the person has other mental health conditions.

Serious Injury

An experience that causes serious injury can bring shock and horror. The physical consequences and psychological aftereffects can contribute to the onset of PTSD.

The Signs of PTSD

If you’ve experienced the following symptoms after a traumatic event, see a mental health professional about the possibility of PTSD.

TRANSCRIPT
00:02
those common symptoms are the ones that
00:04
are often most difficult to recognize
00:06
avoidance it’s human nature to avoid
00:09
what’s painful right so we avoid
00:11
thinking about anything that’s painful
00:13
if we can we avoid our emotions we avoid
00:16
going back to places that remind us of
00:18
our trauma but so that could be and it
00:21
may not be as obvious because as trauma
00:25
we think of it as our memory for trauma
00:30
as being cues to becoming cues to fear
00:32
and so it made in those generalize out
00:35
from the specific event so you could
00:37
have been at the World Trade Center and
00:39
perhaps not even been in the building
00:41
but outside witnessing it and then over
00:44
time you’ll become afraid of tall
00:47
buildings so we had a patient who
00:49
actually broke up with her her fiance
00:52
because he lives on the 30th floor of an
00:54
apartment building and she was terrified
00:57
to go into his building of course she
00:59
said that she was breaking up with him
01:00
because they didn’t get along and
01:01
they’re a whole host of other problems
01:02
the good news is that after treatment
01:05
she realized that was she was just
01:06
scared to go into his building and they
01:08
got back together and they got married
01:09
but at the time she had no no
01:11
recognition of it that that she was
01:14
avoiding his home because it reminded
01:16
her thing at the World Trade Center

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can plague people with PTSD. Flashbacks, where you repeatedly relive the trauma, occur. Physical symptoms happen just as they did during the original ordeal, such as sweating or elevated heart rate. Terrifying thoughts intrude during the day and nightmares invade your sleep.

Avoiding Reminders of the Traumatic Event

The symptom of avoidance happens when you steer clear of any places, objects, or events that are reminders of the traumatic ordeal. Also, avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic experience can occur. Avoidance can affect daily life, causing you to change your routine.

Negative Thoughts and Feelings

Negative thoughts and moodiness can occur with PTSD. Negative thoughts may include guilt, blame, and bleak feelings about oneself or society. You may lose interest in activities you once found enjoyable. Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic encounter is also a common symptom. All these feelings and thoughts can lead to detachment and alienation from loved ones.

Arousal and Reactive Symptoms

Arousal and reactivity symptoms include tenseness, being easily startled, insomnia, and anger. Arousal symptoms are typically always present, rather than being triggered by traumatic event reminders. These symptoms can make it hard to accomplish daily activities such as concentrating, eating, and sleeping.

Working all the Time to Occupy Your Mind

You start to work much more than before the trauma event to occupy your thoughts to avoid intrusive or negative thoughts from taking hold.

Isolation

If you feel unable to relate to other people, or that people don’t seem to understand how you can’t shake the symptoms from a trauma, you may isolate yourself. Isolation helps you avoid uncomfortable feelings that arise when you are with others.

Symptoms of PTSD

The Emotional Symptoms of PTSD

You may be experiencing PTSD if you have a cluster of emotional symptoms, which include:

  • Anxiety: You’re constantly anxious that there may be danger around you
  • Anger: You lash out in anger for no apparent reason
  • Depression: You feel depressed due to misplaced guilt
  • Irritability: You are frequently irritable or moody
  • Sadness: You often feel sad for no apparent reason

The Physical Symptoms of PTSD

Physical symptoms can manifest with PTSD, including:

  • Fatigue: You feel tired all the time
  • Increased perspiration: You sweat a lot more than you did prior to the traumatic event
  • High or low blood pressure: Your blood pressure is either above or below normal
  • Digestion issues: You often find it hard to digest food

Trauma Symptoms in Children

Children and teens can have severe reactions to trauma, but their symptoms can appear differently from adults. In children under 6 years old, the following symptoms can appear:

  • Bedwetting after successful toilet training
  • Forgetting how to or being unable to talk
  • Acting out the scary event while playing
  • Unusual clinginess with parents or other adults

Older children and teenagers generally show symptoms similar to adults. Additionally, they may develop behavioral problems, such as being disrespectful, disruptive, or destructive. They may feel misplaced guilt for not “saving” others. They may also have thoughts of suicide or revenge.

Many factors play a role in PTSD development. Risk factors can make you more likely to develop PTSD. Resilience factors can help reduce the risk of PTSD. 

Video: What It Feels Like to Have PTSD

TRANSCRIPT
00:00
(instrumental music)
00:10
– [Voiceover] I have PTSD from serving my country.
00:13
All I want to do is go back to Iraq to feel normal again.
00:16
– [Voiceover] I have PTSD from sexual assault trauma
00:19
and I’m worried that because of it
00:20
I won’t ever be able to have a normal relationship.
00:22
– [Voiceover] I have PTSD and have nightmares every night.
00:26
So, I avoid sleeping as much as possible.
00:29
– [Voiceover] Today I was diagnosed with PTSD.
00:31
Now I’m feeling more anxious and depressed about it.
00:33
I’m not looking forward to the
00:34
stigma that comes along with it.
00:36
– [Voiceover] I live with PTSD from Iraq every day.
00:38
Nobody knows, they just think I’m
00:40
anti-social, boring and a bit strange.
00:42
– [Voiceover] I can’t keep a relationship going
00:44
because of my PTSD.
00:46
There’s got to be a girl out there
00:47
who’s willing to look past it for me.
00:50
– [Voiceover] I have PTSD and when people find out
00:51
they ask where I served.
00:53
When I tell them I wasn’t in the military
00:55
they dismiss it like I’m lying.
00:56
– [Voiceover] I have severe PTSD
00:58
but I’m afraid to get diagnosis.
01:00
I don’t want a label, a handout, or sympathy.
01:02
I just want help.
01:04
– [Voiceover] I secretly live with
01:05
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
01:07
I try to act care-free but I live on alert.
01:10
– [Voiceover] I hate it when my PTSD acts up
01:13
and I’m suddenly afraid of everyone.
01:14
– [Voiceover] My trust issues make everything
01:16
so hard and I wish I could just forget my past.
01:20
But my PTSD makes it impossible.
01:22
– [Voiceover] My ex left me because I have PTSD
01:24
and wouldn’t open up about my deployment.
01:26
– [Voiceover] My PTSD makes me feel alone and unwanted
01:29
which makes me angry at people.
01:31
– [Voiceover] PTSD has made me a prisoner in my own mind.
01:34
– [Voiceover] I thought my PTSD was getting better
01:36
but then the flashbacks started up again.
01:39
I’m exhausted.
01:41
– [Voiceover] I have PTSD.
01:42
My service dog saved my life.
01:45
He gives me unconditional love and a reason to live.

Risk Factors for PTSD

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or other serious events. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous ordeal. Some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD.

Some factors that increase risk for PTSD include:

  • Surviving a dangerous event and trauma
  • Childhood trauma
  • Getting injured
  • Seeing another person injured
  • Seeing a dead body
  • Feeling scared, helpless, or experiencing extreme fear
  • Added stress after the trauma experience, such as injury, loss of a loved one, or loss of a job or home
  • Experiencing little or no social support after the traumatic event
  • Having a mental illness or substance abuse history

Resilience Factors for PTSD

Some resilience factors that can reduce PTSD risks include:

  • Finding support after a traumatic experience, like a support group or trauma-informed therapist
  • Searching out support from loved ones
  • Having positive coping skills to get through the trauma and learning from it
  • Learning to feel competent about your own actions when facing danger
  • Being able to respond competently despite fear

PTSD Treatments

Currently, people with PTSD are treated with medications and psychotherapy. Since everyone is affected differently from PTSD, treatment must be designed for the particular person, because what may work for one person may not work well for another.  

If you have PTSD, it’s important you seek help from a mental health professional who has experience treating this disorder. You may have to try several different treatments to find what works best for you. If you have other issues, such as ongoing trauma, depression, or substance abuse, you’ll need to treat all the co-occurring issues at the same time for effective recovery.  

Medication

Medication has been proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD, 42 out of 100 people who take medication will no longer meet the guidelines for PTSD.​​​3 Medications may be prescribed along with psychotherapy. Medications that effectively treat PTSD include:

  • Antidepressants: To reduce sad feelings, anger, numbness, and worry
  • Alpha-adrenergic Blockers: To help regulate blood pressure and relieve nightmares
  • Anti-anxiety medications: Short-term use of these drugs can help relieve severe anxiety

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can help PTSD sufferers work through the trauma. According to the National Center for PTSD, 53 out of 100 people who receive PTSD psychotherapy treatment will no longer meet the guidelines for PTSD.​​​3 

Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional regarding a mental health disorder like PTSD. Psychotherapy can be conducted on an individual basis or within a group. Treatment sessions typically run from 6 to 12 weeks, but can go longer when needed. You’ll learn about trauma and its effects, relaxation techniques, anger control, and how to live a healthier lifestyle.  

Psychotherapy can help people with PTSD by addressing the symptoms directly or by focusing on PTSD-related problems. Mainly, therapy sessions include PTSD education, learning skills to help identify symptoms triggers, and how to manage symptoms. 

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy, a form of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help you confront and control your fear. You’ll be slowly and safely exposed to the trauma. Methods used to do this are writing, imagining, or visiting the place where the event occurred. Your therapist uses these methods to teach you coping skills. 

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is another form of CBT that helps you process the bad memories from a traumatic experience. You may remember the event differently from what happened. Consequently, you may feel guilty or shameful over things that occurred that were not your fault or that you had no control over. Your therapist will help you examine the incident in a rational way.

There are other types of treatment for PTSD, and you can discuss these options with your therapist. Effective treatment should help you manage your symptoms and get you back on track to the way you were before the trauma.  

PTSD Self-Care Strategies

There are steps you can take outside of treatment to help yourself deal with PTSD. While it may be difficult, with treatment and your own management, you can recover.  

At the bottom of this article is a list of state resources for finding help for both veterans and non-veterans dealing with PTSD. You can also ask your family doctor about treatment options. 

You can also care for yourself by:

  • Letting a trusted friend or relative know what you are experiencing
  • Letting those around you know what may trigger PTSD symptoms
  • Doing gentle physical activities or exercises to release stress
  • Setting realistic goals for yourself
  • Breaking up tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Don’t pressure yourself, and tackle tasks when you feel you can.
  • Trying to spend time with friends or family
  • Identifying and going to places or being with people you feel comfortable with
  • Reducing or eliminating caffeine and nicotine intake as they can worsen anxiety
  • Avoiding self-medication with drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Giving yourself time to recover, it doesn’t happen immediately

Service Animals

Service animals, most commonly dogs, can give you positive emotional benefits that help treat your PTSD. A dog in your home can boost your mood and relieve your stress. The companionship your dog provides can be fun and loving. Walking your dog can be a good source of regular exercise and fresh air. When you’re out with your dog, it can be a great way to meet new people.

Common Co-Occurring Conditions with PTSD

Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder have other mental health and behavioral conditions that require treatment as well. A comprehensive treatment plan that integrates any existing disorders is necessary for successful recovery.

Substance Use Disorder

People with PTSD are 2 to 4 times more likely to also have a substance use disorder (SUD) compared to individuals without PTSD.​​​4 A study of people with PTSD showed that almost half also had SUD.

PTSD along with SUD is not uncommon. That’s because individuals who are struggling to deal with the trauma from a serious event often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to alleviate PTSD symptoms.

Anxiety Disorders

PTSD and anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can go hand in hand. Anxiety disorders without trauma are the most common mental health conditions in the United States with about 30% of Americans experiencing anxiety-related symptoms at some point in their lives.5 Since anxiety is a major symptom of PTSD, it’s common for a separate anxiety disorder to then develop.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental health condition. Research shows that stressful life events, some of which could lead to PTSD, often occur at the onset of OCD. 6

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and PTSD are frequently seen together, mostly in people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. 7

Depression

Post-traumatic stress disorders and depression disorders are often co-occurring with half the people with PTSD also suffering from a major depressive disorder. 8 People with or at risk for depression often develop a major depressive disorder after suffering a traumatic event.

PTSD Myths and Misconceptions

Misconception: PTSD only happens in the military

War veterans are seriously affected by PTSD, but they are not the only segment of the population that’s affected. Even children can get PTSD, and it can happen to anyone at any age.

Misconception: PTSD happens right after a traumatic ordeal

Typically, PTSD symptoms start about 3 months after a trauma. In many cases, the symptoms begin many months or years later. For some, symptoms are continuous, and for others they appear, disappear, and then reappear. If symptoms don’t occur right after an event, it may be hard for the person to make the connection between the symptoms and the trauma.

Misconception: People who have PTSD should just snap out of it

Some people readjust after a traumatic ordeal, but others can’t, and this has nothing to do with mental weakness. There are many factors that determine if someone will get PTSD, such as the type, severity, and the length of the traumatic ordeal, the individual’s personality, the way the brain releases stress chemicals, and if the person had past trauma or has a solid support network.

Finding Help With PTSD

Resources for PTSD treatment are increasing in the United States for veterans and non-veterans as awareness grows that it is a real problem that can be effectively treated with the right help.

The NAMI Helpline is a good place for people who are non-veterans to find effective treatment. THE NAMI NATIONAL HELPLINE 800-950-NAMI

For veterans, the Veterans Administration has PTSD programs offering treatment for combat-related conditions. NATIONAL DIRECTORY OF VA SERVICES  1-800-273-TALK

Instead of isolation and self-medication, reach out for help if you find yourself experiencing PTSD symptoms, even if the trauma ordeal may have happened months or years ago.

 

State Resources

Alaska

NAMI Alaska

Anchorage, AK

Alaska VA Healthcare System

Anchorage, AK

Arizona

Delaware

NAMI Delaware

Wilmington, DE

District of Columbia

NAMI DC

Washington, DC

Washington DC VA Medical Center

Washington, DC

Georgia

NAMI Georgia

Atlanta, GA

Atlanta Vet Center

College Park, GA

Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii State

Honolulu, HI

Honolulu Vet Center

Honolulu, HI

Idaho

NAMI Idaho

Hailey, ID

Boise Vet Center

Boise, ID

Illinois

NAMI Illinois

Springfield, IL

Chicago Heights Vet Center

Chicago Heights, IL

Indiana

NAMI Indiana

Indianapolis, IN

Fort Wayne Vet Center

Fort Wayne, IN

Iowa

NAMI Iowa

Des Moines, IA

Des Moines Vet Center

Des Moines, IA

Kansas

NAMI Kansas

Topeka, KS

Wichita Vet Center

Wichita, KS

Kentucky

NAMI Kentucky

Somerset, KY

Lexington Vet Center

Lexington, KY

Louisiana

NAMI Louisiana

Baton Rouge, LA

Maine

NAMI Maine

Hallowell, ME

Bangor Vet Center

Bangor, ME

Maryland

NAMI Maryland

Columbia, MD

Baltimore Vet Center

Baltimore, MD

Massachusetts

Michigan

NAMI Michigan

Lansing, MI

Detroit Vet Center

Detroit, MI

Montana

NAMI Montana

Helena, MT

Missoula Vet Center

Missoula, MT

Nebraska

Nevada

NAMI Nevada

Reno, NV

Las Vegas Vet Center

Las Vegas, NV

New Hampshire

New Jersey

NAMI New Jersey

Brunswick, NJ

Southern New Jersey Vet Center

Egg Harbor Township, NJ

New Mexico

NAMI New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM

Santa Fe Vet Center

Santa Fe, NM

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

NAMI North Dakota

Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot, ND

Fargo Vet Center

Fargo, ND

Ohio

NAMI Ohio

Northwest Ohio

Dayton Vet Center

Kettering, OH

Oklahoma

NAMI Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, OK

Toledo Vet Center

Toledo, OK

Oregon

NAMI Oregon

Portland, OR

Eugene Vet Center

Eugene, OR

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

NAMI South Dakota

Sioux Falls, SD

Rapid City Vet Center

Rapid City, SD

Tennessee

NAMI Tennessee

Nashville, TN

Chattanooga Vet Center

Chattanooga, TN

Texas

NAMI Texas

Austin, TX

Dallas Vet Center

Dallas, TX

Utah

NAMI Utah State Office

West Valley City, UT

Provo Vet Center

Orem, UT

Vermont

NAMI Vermont

Williston, VT

South Burlington Vet Center

South Burlington, VT

Virginia

NAMI Virginia

Richmond, VA

Roanoke Vet Center

Roanoke, VA

Washington

NAMI Washington

Seattle, WA

Seattle Vet Center

Seattle, WA

Wisconsin

Wyoming

NAMI Wyoming

Casper, WY

Casper Vet Center

Casper, WY


Resources

  1. http://www.ptsdunited.org/ptsd-statistics-2/
  2. http://www.namiarizona.org/page17/page34/index.html
  3. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3811127/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760665/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4346088/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579516/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518698/