PTSD: What It Is and How You Can Find the Right Treatment
Night terrors, flashbacks, evenings spent in isolation. These are just some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More than eight million Americans live with some of these symptoms – the reaction to a personally traumatic experience. It is estimated at least 600,000 post-9/11 veterans are part of that population living with PTSD.
Veterans Crisis Line
If you are in crisis, please call 911, go to your nearest emergency room, or call 800.273.8255 (Para Español llame 888.628.9454). Veterans: Press "1" after you call, or go to Veterans Crisis Line to chat live with a crisis counselor at any time.
How do you get PTSD?
PTSD can occur after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. For veterans, this can stem from combat, training, or military sexual trauma.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are four types of symptoms:
- Re-experiencing: flashbacks, bad dreams, frightening thoughts
- Avoidance: avoiding thoughts, feelings, places, activities, or objects that remind you of the traumatic event
- Arousal and reactivity: being easily startled, feeling tense, having trouble sleeping
- Cognition and mood: experiencing negative thoughts, feelings of guilt or blame, or loss of interest in hobbies
When these symptoms last for a month, it is considered PTSD.
What should I do if I think I have PTSD?
First, know that you’re not alone. We are very sorry to hear you are struggling, but we believe no matter what you’re going through, with help you can find a future to look forward to. If you think you or a loved one has PTSD, please contact the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Resource Center at 888.997.2586 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will connect you with someone who can help. We’re stronger when we work together, so we collaborate with many other veterans service organizations to help veterans of all generations. Our Resource Center is always happy to work with veterans from all generations to connect them with resources specifically developed to help them.
What treatment options exist for PTSD?
WWP directs every hour, dollar, and action to helping warriors achieve their highest ambition. Some of its programs focus directly on treating PTSD and creating coping skills for wounded veterans of today’s generation. Individuals respond differently to trauma. They also respond differently to treatment. Here are a few of our mental health programs:
- Project Odyssey®: WWP mental health workshops bring veterans together to take on outdoor challenges together. During the multi-day events, we help veterans grow internally while also expanding external support structures.
- WWP Talk: WWP staff members are available for weekly calls to warriors, family members, and caregivers to provide not only a helpful ear, but also encouragement. WWP works with the individual to set goals and create a plan to exceed those targets.
- Warrior Care Network®: WWP’s Warrior Care Network provides world-class clinical mental health care. Warrior Care Network is a partnership between WWP and four top academic medical centers. The PTSD treatment provides more than 70 hours of clinical care in 2- to 3-week programs. Warrior Care Network includes cognitive therapy, prolonged exposure, virtual reality, mindfulness, and more.
In addition to the above programs available through WWP, there are a number of options to address PTSD. VA provides free options for eligible veterans, including therapy. There are a number of ways to find a suitable veterans mental health therapist.
Organizations like The Mission Continues and Team RWB provide opportunities to connect with other veterans in different ways. PyschArmor has videos addressing the stigma and myths around PTSD. Whatever you need, there are resources available to help you plan a path forward.
How can I help a loved one with PTSD?
First, let them know that acknowledging they may have PTSD shows they’re strong, not weak.
- Let the veteran determine what they are comfortable talking about, and don’t push.
- Be a good listener and don’t say things like, “I know how you felt,” or, “That’s just like when I…,” even if you also served in a combat zone. Everyone’s feelings are unique.
- Remind your loved one that they are not alone, and many others have personal stories they can share about their readjustment. Talking to other warriors can help them cope.
What are the symptoms of PTSD in veterans? What PTSD treatment options are available? What can I do if I think I have PTSD? Explore these resources for more information
In the past 20 years, there have been many scientific studies testing whether medications and psychotherapies help people with mental health problems. The jury is in: THEY DO HELP!
If you are experiencing difficulties related to deployment or operational stress, you CAN feel better. Therapists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to help them overcome a wide range of psychological and emotional difficulties. The therapist may not have military experience, but should make you feel safe, comfortable, and listened to.
The patient or client (you) is an active participant in this process. Therapist and patient work together to generate a road map for how your psychotherapy will go. Psychotherapy is a non-medical treatment. However, medication can be used with psychotherapy and would be prescribed by a psychiatrist (MD) or a nurse with prescribing privileges such as a clinical nurse specialist or advanced practice nurse.
Learn more about options for mental health treatment or check out the "Useful Resources" section toward the bottom of this page.
Finding the Right Mental Health Professional for Veteran PTSD, Scheduling An Appointment, Active Duty and Veterans Help Resources
Just like there are a wide variety of wounds warriors experience during and following combat, there are a wide variety of health professionals to treat those wounds. Finding the right therapist depends on what matters most to you. Determine if you are interested in a specific type of therapy or if your selection will be limited by your health care provider and fees. Regardless of what you decide is right for you, there are a number of ways to find a suitable veterans mental health therapist.
Scheduling An Appointment
When you call to schedule an appointment, be sure to mention that you are looking for a therapist who specializes in effective treatment of the specific issue(s) you would like to address. For example, an effective treatment for PTSD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
Active Duty and Veterans Help Resources
- The WWP Resource Center can assist you with information regarding WWP programs and services to meet your specific needs. Email the WWP Resource Center at email@example.com or call 888.WWP.ALUM (888.997.2586).
- Call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll free at 1-877-222-VETS or explore My HealtheVet, which provides veterans help with VA health care information, services, and locations.
- Call the Vet Center's national number at 1-800-905-4675 or visit online for more information or to find the location nearest you.
- Locate non-veteran specific metal health services online through the Mental Health Services Locator hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
- Take a look at Sidran. They offer a referral list of therapists, as well as a fact sheet on how to choose a therapist for PTSD.