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This fact sheet provides basic information to post-traumatic stress disorder. It addresses what PTSD is, what kind of events can contribute to the development of PTSD, how to locate help, treatments, and resources for veterans experiencing PTSD.

HRC is pleased to share the following article, originally published by HRC’s partner Brainline.org. Reprinted with permission from BrainLine.org, a WETA website.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening.

Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These events can include:

  • Combat or military exposure
  • Child sexual or physical abuse
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Serious accidents, such as a car wreck
  • Natural disasters, such as a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake

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

For a more information, please see our fact sheet What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What treatments are available for PTSD?

There are many types of treatment for PTSD. You and your doctor will discuss the best treatment for you. You may have to try a number of treatments before you find one that works for you.

A type of counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy and medicines known as SSRIs appear to be the most effective treatments for PTSD. Treatment can help you feel more in control of your emotions and result in fewer symptoms, but you may still have some bad memories.

How do I locate specialists or support groups for PTSD?

If you are in an immediate crisis, please go to your nearest Emergency Room or call 911.

Although the Center does not provide any direct clinical care, we provide links and information to help you locate mental health services in your area. See our fact sheets on:

  • Finding a Therapist

I am an American Veteran. Who do I contact for help with PTSD?

You can contact your local VA Hospital or Veterans Center located in your telephone book, or call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll free at 1-877-222-VETS. In addition to its medical centers, VA also has many CBOCs (Community Based Outpatient Clinics) around each state so you can look for one in your community. You can also use any of the information on treatment for the general public.

For online help, the VA also offers the MyHealtheVet and Seamless Transition websites. Please also see Specialized PTSD Treatment Programs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

As an American Veteran, how do I file a claim for disability due to PTSD?

A formal request ("claim") must be filed by the veteran using forms provided by the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. After the forms are completely submitted, the veteran must complete interviews concerning her or his "social history" (a review of family, work, and educational experiences before, during, and after military service) and "psychiatric status" (a review of past and current psychological symptoms, and of traumatic experiences during military service). The forms and information about the application process can be obtained from Benefits Officers at any VA Medical Center, Outpatient Clinic, or Regional Office.

The process of applying for a VA disability for PTSD can take several months, and can be both complicated and quite stressful. The Veteran's Service Organizations (VSOs) provide "Service Officers" at no cost to help veterans and family members pursue VA disability claims. Service Officers are familiar with every step in the application and interview process, and can provide both technical guidance and moral support. In addition, some Service Officers particularly specialize in assisting veterans with PTSD disability claims.

Even if a veteran has not been a member of a specific Veterans Service Organization, the veteran still can request the assistance of a Service Officer working for that organization. In order to get representation by a qualified and helpful Service Officer, you can directly contact the local office of any Veterans Service Organization — or ask for recommendations from other veterans who have applied for VA disability, or from a PTSD specialist at a VA PTSD clinic or a Vet Center.

Do you have brochures/handouts/videos available?

Any material on our website is free for you to use, reproduce, and distribute as needed (in the Public Domain). The National Center for PTSD's website contains information created by experts: fact sheets, handouts, award winning educational videos, web based course material (PTSD 101), manuals, guides, and MORE! These materials cover a range of audiences (veterans, families, clinicians, health care providers, researchers) and a range of topics (war, natural disaster, terrorism, assault and abuse).

Does the National Center for PTSD publish any journals? How do I subscribe?

Yes, the National Center publishes some regular publications, and our staff regularly publishes in major journals. All are available to download from our website. Use our advanced search to locate articles and chapters written by staff at the National Center for PTSD.

The PTSD Research Quarterly contains review articles on specific topics related to PTSD, written by guest experts. Each article contains a selective bibliography with abstracts and a supplementary list of annotated citations.

The Clinician's Trauma Update (CTU-Online) provides summaries of clinically relevant publications. Links to the full article (PDF) or to the abstract are available.

The NCPTSD Clinical Quarterly archives are available (1990-2003). The CQ was published by our Education Division and addressed the needs of practicing PTSD clinicians and program administrators.

How do I locate books on PTSD?

You can contact your local library for books or articles on trauma, PTSD, and related subjects. The National Center for PTSD's PILOTS database is another way to locate information. It is an electronic index to the worldwide literature on traumatic stress. You can search for citation information and electronic links to full text articles. The National Center for PTSD's Resource Center houses this information at our Executive Division in VT. Also see our recommended reading lists.

I am a professional who would like to know what training is available from the National Center for PTSD.

The National Center for PTSD now offers PTSD 101, an online web-based training course on traumatic stress. Many other training videos and materials are also available on our site. Our Education Division offers an on-site clinical training program in the treatment of PTSD. The training program is 35 hours long, and is approved for category 1 continuing medical education credit. We also provide Postdoctoral Fellowship Programs and Internships.

For more information, see Training Opportunities at NCPTSD.

As a professional, I need to locate a specific assessment instrument for PTSD. How do I do that?

Assessment instruments created by National Center for PTSD staff, such as: the CAPS, CAPS-CA, and TESI-C, can be requested online through the National Center for PTSD website.

Check out the "Related Items" to the right of the screen.

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