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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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What Can I Do if I Think I Have PTSD?

 

What Can I Do if I Think I Have PTSD?

Available in Spanish: ¿Qué Puedo Hacer si Creo que Tengo el Trastorno por Estrés Postraumático? | Ver todos

If you think you have PTSD, it's important to get assessed by a professional. Only a trained provider can determine if you have PTSD. If you think you may have PTSD, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. Treatment can work, and early treatment may help reduce long-term symptoms.

If you think you have PTSD

  • Talk to your family doctor.
  • Talk to a mental health professional, such as a therapist.
  • If you're a Veteran, contact your local VA hospital or Vet Center.
  • Talk to a close friend or family member. He or she may be able to support you and find you help.
  • Talk to a religious leader.
  • Fill out a PTSD questionnaire or screen (see below).
  • Learn more about talking to your doctor about trauma.

Take a self-screen for PTSD

A screen is a brief set of questions to tell you if it is likely you might have PTSD. Below is the PC-PTSD Screen.

Instructions: In your life, have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible, or upsetting that, in the past month, you:

  1. Have had nightmares about it or thought about it when you did not want to?
  2. Tried hard not to think about it or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of it?
  3. Were constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?
  4. Felt numb or detached from others, activities, or your surroundings?

If you answer "yes" to any three items, you should think about seeing a doctor for an assessment.

You can also take a longer PTSD questionnaire (screen) and take it with you to the doctor. (While this screen asks about military experiences, you can also answer the questions as they would apply to any other kind of trauma.)

Many people who might need assistance with something like the symptoms of PTSD are afraid to go for help.

  • One out of five people say they might not get help because of what other people might think.
  • One out of three people say they would not want anyone else to know they were in therapy.

A study that's been done of soldiers coming home from Iraq found that only 4 in 10 service members with mental health problems said they would get help. Some of the most common reasons they gave were they might be seen as weak, or it might hurt their military career.

Why seek help?

Here are some of the reasons why you should seek help.

Early treatment is better

Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop them from getting worse in the future. Finding out more about what treatments work, where to look for help, and what kind of questions to ask can make it easier to get help and lead to better outcomes.

PTSD symptoms can change family life

PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry or even violent. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your family life.

PTSD can be related to other health problems

PTSD symptoms can worsen physical health problems. For example, a few studies have shown a relationship between PTSD and heart trouble. By getting help for your PTSD, you could also improve your physical health.

It may not be PTSD

Having symptoms of PTSD does not always mean you have PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are also symptoms for other mental health problems. For example, trouble concentrating or feeling less interested in things you used to enjoy can be symptoms of both depression and PTSD. Since different problems have different treatments, it's important to have your symptoms assessed.

While it may be tempting to identify PTSD in yourself or someone you know, the diagnosis generally is made by a mental health professional. This will usually involve an evaluation by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker specifically trained to assess psychological problems.

What you can do?

If you have PTSD or PTSD symptoms, you may feel helpless.

Here are ways, though, that you can help yourself:

  • Learn more about PTSD from this website or from other places.
  • Talk to your doctor or a chaplain or other religious leader.
  • Go for a PTSD evaluation by a mental health professional specifically trained to assess psychological problems.

If you do not want to be evaluated, but feel you have symptoms of PTSD, you may choose "watchful waiting." Watchful waiting means taking a wait-and-see approach.

  • If you get better on your own, you won't need treatment.
  • If your symptoms do not get better after three months, and they are either causing you distress or are getting in the way of your work or home life, talk with a health professional.

In a few cases, your symptoms may be so severe that you need immediate help. Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you think that you cannot keep from hurting yourself or someone else.

What treatments are available?

Today, there are good treatments available for PTSD. When you have PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But talking with a therapist can help you get better.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) appears to be the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. There are different types of cognitive behavioral therapies such as cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. There is also a similar kind of therapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) that is used for PTSD. Medications have also been shown to be effective. A type of drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is also used for depression, is effective for PTSD.

For more information on treatment see the fact sheets in our PTSD Basics section.

Date this content was last updated is at the bottom of the page.

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Where to Get Help for PTSD

The National Center for PTSD does not provide direct clinical care, individual referrals or benefits information.