According to the National Center for PTSD of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after a traumatic event (e.g., combat, assault, disaster, accident). Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions do not go away over time, the individual may have PTSD. PTSD symptoms fall into four categories: (1) reliving the event; (2) avoiding reminders of the event; (3) negative changes in beliefs and feelings; and (4) feeling keyed up.
Not all traumatic events result in PTSD. Even though over half of the population experiences some type of trauma, only about 8% develop PTSD over the course of their lives. Most people will get better without treatment in the first year. For those with symptoms longer than a year, it is likely that these symptoms will remain without effective treatment.
Since there is no single treatment that will work for every person with PTSD, the VA recommends three evidence-based psychotherapy treatment: cognitive processing therapy (CPT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and prolonged exposure (PE). All three types of psychotherapy treatment involve weekly sessions with homework assignments for two to three months. Medication is not generally prescribed alone but accompanies psychotherapy. In addition, the VA has developed resources (informational materials, tools, videos, and apps) to help Veterans tackle their PTSD:
- https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/index.asp: This webpage provides a primer on PTSD—its symptoms, how it develops, when and where to seek help, and types of evidence-based treatment.
- https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/understanding_ptsd/booklet.pdf: This informative booklet can be downloaded and gives an overview of PTSD.
- https://www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/decisionaid/: Decision Aid helps Veterans identify what steps they need to take to get the help they need. It also provides information about evidence-based PTSD treatments, including different types of psychotherapy and medication.
- https://www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/AboutFace/: About Face features Veterans, family members, and clinicians who tell their personal stories about PTSD through videos.
- https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/materials/apps/index.asp: The VA has developed self-help mobile apps and treatment companion apps for CPT and PE.