Symptoms of ptsd in soldiers

PTSD: National Center for PTSD


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More than 60,000 U.S. military veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017. Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) face a higher risk of thinking about and attempting suicide.

“Estimates indicate 12 to 20% of veterans have PTSD,” said Dr. Ellen Teng, a clinical research psychologist and director of the Center for Innovative Treatment of Anxiety and Stress at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC). “The rate of PTSD is higher among service members than civilians because, in addition to exposure to life-threatening situations related to combat, there is a high rate of sexual trauma in the military.”

Although men also experience sexual harassment and assault, approximately 20% of women veterans report experiencing sexual assault in the military – and more than half have reported sexual harassment.

Recognizing the symptoms and risk factors

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Avoiding people, places, and activities that are reminders of the trauma
  • Flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories related to the traumatic event
  • Feelings of sadness, fear and anger
  • Hyper-vigilance of surroundings
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating

As a way of coping, veterans may also turn to using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Teng says this can lead to substance abuse disorders.

There are also a number of risk factors that can predispose veterans to developing PTSD, including:

  • Genetic and neurological factors
  • Life experiences, such as traumatic events early in life
  • Pre-existing mood or anxiety disorders
  • Lacking a strong support system
Effective treatments

There has been significant research related to which psychotherapies are most effective for treating PTSD.

“Cognitive behavioral approaches have been shown to be the most effective. These treatments include prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).”

Essentially, these treatments help veterans with PTSD process how they have been impacted by the trauma they have experienced – and, ultimately, learn skills to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to the trauma.

Treatments on the horizon

Teng says researchers are looking at a number of ways to improve PTSD treatment overall.

“In terms of neuroimaging, researchers are interested in isolating specific regions of the brain involved in the development and maintenance of PTSD symptoms. There’s also work being done in the development of genetic biomarkers and finding ways to predict who will respond better to different types of treatment.”

When it comes to psychotherapy, researchers at the MEDVAMC and Baylor College of Medicine are also studying more intensive approaches to delivering existing evidence-based treatments.

“My team and I have been offering intensive weekend treatments to veterans who have PTSD and other anxiety-based disorders to determine if they are as effective as standard delivery formats that require several months to complete. Emerging evidence from recent clinical trials conducted by researchers across the country indicate that gold-standard behavioral treatments for PTSD are effective when delivered in intensive formats.”

Another treatment that can be completed in a relatively short period of time is written exposure therapy, which involves the veteran writing about their trauma in a structured way with clinician guidance.

“Transcranial magnetic stimulation is also a newer area of research being explored to treat PTSD. This noninvasive approach involves stimulating specific nerve cells in the brain using magnetic fields. Alternative medicine approaches, such as yoga and mindfulness, are also being researched to help alleviate symptoms,” Teng said.

Helping a loved one

Because of the isolation and stigma that is associated with PTSD, veterans can be reluctant to reach out for help. Teng says friends and family members can play a helpful role when it comes to treatment.

“When someone you know is struggling with symptoms, reach out to them and encourage them to connect with a mental health provider.”

Teng emphasizes that anyone can develop PTSD and that effective treatments are available.

“PTSD can be treated. This is not something you have to deal with on your own.”

Dr. Teng is an associate professor with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor. Learn more about the Baylor Psychiatry Clinic or call 713-798-4857.

Additional Resources

See resources from the National Center for PTSD.

Contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

-By Nicole Blanton

PTSD Symptoms in Men

Millions of people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, doctors do not always spot PTSD symptoms in men. Until men can get a diagnosis and realize that they have PTSD, it is impossible to get proper treatment at a PTSD treatment center in North Carolina for this disorder.

What Are PTSD Symptoms in Men?

When men undergo some form of trauma, they may not get treatment for it right away. Often, men do not realize that they have PTSD. They internalize their symptoms and assume that something is wrong with them. Once men understand that their symptoms are from an external experience or trauma, they can get help for it.

Being able to realize that there is a problem is hard enough. They may avoid activities and situations that remind them of the traumatic experience. Men are more likely to use alcohol or drugs to cope.

Men may also struggle to get treatment because they want to be perfect. By admitting they have PTSD, they may feel like they are admitting imperfections. While these feelings are unfair and unrealistic, they can still prevent men from getting the help they need.

What Kind of Treatment Works for PTSD?

Each person is unique, so the right therapy may vary. Often, men will benefit from some form of cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy helps men evaluate the way their thoughts and feelings affect their actions. More importantly, it gives men a chance to determine if their emotions and thoughts are logical. If their feelings do not make rational sense, men have a chance to change them.

Exposure therapy helps people confront problems so that they can overcome their fears and anxieties. Group therapy can help men gain peer support, advice, and feedback from people who are going through a similar experience. In addition, men may also benefit from options like yoga, mindfulness meditation, individual therapy, and family counseling.

Dealing With Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse Problems

While it can be difficult to deal with PTSD symptoms in men, the best mental health facility has experience treating trauma-based disorders. At the best PTSD treatment center North Carolina offers, clients can learn more about the different treatment options. A trauma-based care team allows clients to get the support, compassion, and encouragement they need to recover.

In a treatment center, clients can learn about programs such as:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Experiential, organic, and clinical eco-therapy
  • Trauma-based care
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Gender-specific treatment

By treating PTSD symptoms in men, Red Oak Recovery® can help you achieve a better lifestyle. If you or a loved one suffers from PTSD, you do not have to struggle with your symptoms alone. Red Oak Recovery® can help you find the therapy options you need to achieve mental wellness. Learn more about our mental health and substance abuse programs by calling us today at 866.457.7590.

PTSD Associated With Binge Eating Symptoms in Men and Women

Subthreshold and threshold post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with binge eating symptoms in both men and women, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“Similar to drugs and alcohol, binge eating may be used as a strategy to alleviate distressing symptoms of PTSD,” researchers wrote.

The study was based on data from the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, which included a nationally representative sample of 36,309 adults in the United States. Researchers assessed trauma exposure, PTSD, and binge eating symptoms using the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule, DSM-5 Version, and compared 3 groups of people exposed to trauma: those with no or low PTSD symptoms, those with subthreshold PTSD, and those with threshold PTSD.

Repeatedly Overeating Sweets May Impair Ability to Feel Reward

People with subthreshold and threshold PTSD had a greater number of binge eating symptoms than people with no or low PTSD symptoms, according to the study.

Among men who witnessed trauma, combat-related trauma was linked with fewer binge eating symptoms, the study found. Conversely, among women who witnessed trauma, child maltreatment was associated with more binge eating symptoms.

Researchers also reported negative conditions and mood symptoms were associated with a greater number of binge eating symptoms.

—Jolynn Tumolo


Braun J, El-Gabalawy R, Sommer JL, Pietrzak RH, Mitchell K, Mota N. Trauma exposure, DSM-5 posttraumatic stress, and binge eating symptoms: results from a nationally representative sample. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2019;80(6):19m12813.

PTSD: What you need to know

Share on PinterestPTSD can arise as a result of a traumatic event or experience.

Symptoms usually start within 3 months of an event, but they can begin later.

For a person to receive a diagnosis of PTSD, they must meet criteria that are set out by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

According to these guidelines, the person must:

1. Have been exposed to death or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence whether directly, through witnessing it, by it happening to a loved one, or during professional duties

2. Experience the following for more than one month:

  • one or more intrusion symptoms
  • one or more avoidance symptoms
  • two or more symptoms that affect mood and thinking
  • two or more arousal and reactivity symptoms that began after the trauma

Here are some examples of these four types of symptom:

Intrusion symptoms:

  • nightmares
  • flashbacks and a sensation that the event is happening again
  • fearful thoughts

Avoidance symptoms:

  • refusing to discuss the event
  • avoiding situations that remind the person of the event

Arousal and reactivity symptoms:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability and angry outbursts
  • hypersensitivity to possible dangers
  • feeling tense and anxious

Symptoms that affect mood and thinking:

  • inability to remember some aspects of the event
  • feelings of guilt and blame
  • feeling detached and estranged from others and emotionally and mentally numbed
  • having a reduced interest in life
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mental health problems, such as depression, phobias, and anxiety

In addition, the symptoms must lead to distress or difficulty coping with work or relationships, and they must not be due to the use of medication or other substances, or another health condition.

Physical symptoms

There may also be physical symptoms, but these are not included in the DSM-5 criteria:

  • physical effects include sweating, shaking, headaches, dizziness, stomach problems, aches and pains, and chest pain
  • a weakened immune system can lead to more frequent infections
  • sleep disturbances can result in tiredness and other problems

There may be long-term behavioral changes that contribute to problems and work and a breakdown in relationships. The person may start to consume more alcohol than previously, or to misuse drugs or medications.

Children and teens

In those aged 6 years or under, symptoms may include:

  • bedwetting after learning to use the bathroom
  • inability to speak
  • acting out the event in play
  • being clingy with an adult

Between the ages of 5 and 12 years, the child may not have flashbacks and they may not have difficulty remembering parts of the event. However, they may remember it in a different order, or feel that there was a sign that it was going to happen.

They may also act out the trauma or express it through play, pictures, and stories. They may have nightmares and be irritable. They may find it hard to go to school or spend time with friends or studying.

From the age of 8 years and above, children generally tend to display similar reactions to adults.

Between the ages of 12 and 18 years, the person may show disruptive or disrespectful, impulsive or aggressive behavior.

They may feel guilty for not acting differently during the event, or they may consider revenge.

Children who have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to:

  • feel fear, sadness, anxiety, and isolation
  • have a low sense of self-worth
  • behave in an aggressive manner
  • display unusual sexual behavior
  • hurt themselves
  • misuse drugs or alcohol


As part of the diagnostic process, the person may be given a screening test to assess whether or not they have PTSD.

The time taken for this can range from 15 minutes to several one-hour sessions. A longer assessment may be used if there are legal implications or if a disability claim depends on it.

If symptoms disappear after a few weeks, there may be a diagnosis of acute stress disorder.

PTSD tends to last for longer and the symptoms are more severe and may not appear until some time after the event.

Many people recover within 6 months, but some continue to experience symptoms for several years.


What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

You feel on edge. Nightmares keep coming back. Sudden noises make you jump. You’re staying at home more and more. Could you have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

If you have experienced severe trauma or a life-threatening event — whether during a time of war or in a noncombat situation — you may develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress, or what is commonly known as PTSD. Maybe during the event you felt as if your life or the lives of others were in danger or that you had no control over what was happening. While in the military, you may have witnessed people being injured or dying, or you may have experienced physical harm yourself.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories or nightmares of the event, sleeplessness, loss of interest, and feelings of numbness, anger or irritability, or being constantly on guard, but there are many ways PTSD can impact your everyday life. Sometimes these symptoms don’t surface for months or even years after the event occurred or after returning from deployment. They may also come and go. If these problems persist or they’re disrupting your daily life, you may have PTSD.

Some factors can increase the likelihood of a traumatic event leading to PTSD, such as:

  • The intensity of the trauma
  • Being hurt or losing someone you were close to
  • Being physically close to the traumatic event
  • Feeling you were not in control
  • Having a lack of support after the event

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What are the signs of posttraumatic stress disorder?

A wide variety of symptoms may be signs that you are experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder. The following are some of the most common symptoms of PTSD that you or those around you may have noticed:

  • Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
  • Having nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event that make you feel like it’s happening all over again
  • Feeling emotionally cut off from others
  • Feeling numb or losing interest in things you used to care about
  • Feeling constantly on guard
  • Feeling irritated or having angry outbursts
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Being jumpy or easily startled

It’s not just the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder but also how you may react to them that can disrupt your life. You may:

  • Frequently avoid places or things that remind you of what happened
  • Consistently drink or use drugs to numb your feelings
  • Consider harming yourself or others
  • Start working all the time to occupy your mind
  • Pull away from other people and become isolated

What is the treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder?

If you show signs of PTSD, you don’t just have to live with it. In recent years, researchers have dramatically increased our understanding of what causes PTSD and how to treat it. Hundreds of thousands of Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have gotten treatment for PTSD and found significant relief from their symptoms.

Two types of treatment have been shown to be effective for treating PTSD: counseling and medication. Professional therapy or counseling can help you understand your thoughts and reactions and help you learn techniques to cope with challenging situations. Research has shown several specific types of counseling to be very effective for treating PTSD. Medications can also be used to help reduce tension or irritability or to improve sleep. The class of medications most commonly used for PTSD is called “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,” but a doctor can work with you to figure out which medication works best for you.

“In therapy I learned how to respond differently to the thoughts that used to get stuck in my head.”

In just a few months, these treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in your symptoms and quality of life. They can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma and how you react to stressful memories.

You may need to work with your doctor or counselor and try different types of treatment before finding the one that’s best for dealing with your PTSD symptoms.

What can I do if I think I have posttraumatic stress disorder?

In addition to getting treatment, you can adjust your lifestyle to help relieve PTSD symptoms. For example, talking with other Veterans who have experienced trauma can help you connect with and trust others; exercising can help reduce physical tension; and volunteering can help you reconnect with your community. You also can let your friends and family know when certain places or activities make you uncomfortable.

“I wanted to keep the war away from my family, but I brought the war with me every time I opened the door. It helps to talk with them about how I feel.”

Your close friends and family may be the first to notice that you’re having a tough time. Turn to them when you are ready to talk. It can be helpful to share what you’re experiencing, and they may be able to provide support and help you find the right treatment for you.

Take the next step to connect with care.

Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments for PTSD. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.

New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.

  • Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
  • Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
  • Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
  • Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.

Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.

  • If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
  • With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
  • If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.

What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.

  • The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
  • Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
  • VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
  • Vet Centers provide support, counseling, and readjustment services for Veterans and active duty service members (including members of the National Guard and Reserve) who have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility or have experienced a military sexual trauma. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk with a fellow combat Veteran about your experiences, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What about support beyond VA?

There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.

How to Recognize PTSD in Your Spouse

This time of year we see lots of ads for red roses and romantic dinners. While those are certainly important components of romance, lasting love involves two people taking care of each other. In some marriages, that may include being alert for signs of PTSD in your spouse.

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be hard to know when your partner is struggling. In our daily interactions as couples, we sometimes misunderstand each other, tensions arise and we fight. Then, we withdraw from each other. This is a normal interaction between spouses, right? Not always. Perhaps the tension you feel is because your partner is feeling the effects of PTSD.

It is not always easy to figure out if someone has PTSD, but there are some signs that can clue you in. In some cases it can be very obvious. For instance, if your service member returns from a deployment and is still having difficulty falling asleep, wakes up in a cold sweat and punches at an imaginary foe, months after he or she returns, PTSD may be the culprit.

In other cases, the signs might not be as obvious. Your partner could gradually withdraw from activities and people he otherwise enjoyed. You might notice him having nightmares and difficulty falling asleep. He might feel emotionally numb and could appear anxious, worried, angry or moody. When the symptoms are milder it can be difficult to tell the difference between everyday stress and PTSD.

Here’s the main difference: everyday stress doesn’t last long. Your partner may feel out of sorts, anxious and have trouble sleeping because of stress in his or her life, problems at work, or in a relationship. The stress is temporary. The stress resolves and doesn’t affect everyday life in a significant way. It also may not follow a particularly traumatic event. This is not the case with PTSD. PTSD symptoms continue for longer than the average stress episode.

Signs to Watch

In most cases, PTSD sets in after a traumatic event has taken place, such as the violent death of a friend or family member, combat experience, or a natural disaster. It also lasts. It doesn’t just go away, and it affects their everyday life. You may notice your partner has recurring nightmares or thoughts about a traumatic event. You may see trouble sleeping and eating, or have a marked increase in anxiety and fear.

Your partner may be on edge, easily startled and overly alert. At other times he could appear depressed, with a low energy level, memory loss and a lack of focus. He may have difficulty making decisions, and avoid people, places or activities that would normally make your spouse happy. You may suddenly feel like you are walking on egg shells, afraid you might “set him off.” You begin to worry that your partner is no longer himself. He may be suffering from PTSD, and it is not his fault, nor is it your fault, but he does need help.

Here is a list of symptoms to look for in your spouse or partner which may indicate they have PTSD:

  • Intrusive memories
  • Flashbacks
  • Re-occurring nightmares
  • Intense distress or irritability
  • Physical reactions such as rapid breathing, sweating, or nausea, when remembering or being reminded of the trauma
  • Avoidance
  • Feeling emotionally detached from others
  • Emotional numbness
  • Experiencing hopelessness about the future
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Arousal or anxiety symptoms
  • Bouts of moodiness or anger
  • Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
  • A sense of being “on alert” or “on guard” – Hypervigilance
  • Developing a destructive addiction
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you suspect that a loved one has PTSD, it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is treated, the easier it is to overcome. PTSD can interfere with your partner’s entire life, health, relationships and work. You can take a free anonymous screening on behalf of your partner online.

If your partner is reluctant to seek treatment, you can find support for yourself in how to help your partner too.

In this month where relationships are the focus, take an inventory of your relationship. Is your spouse experiencing any of the above symptoms? If so, contact a mental health provider in your area for an assessment, diagnosis and plan. If your spouse is actively suicidal, get help right away. And remember, you are not alone. Help is out there for you and your spouse so that you can have a happier and healthier relationship.

If you feel you or your partner are currently suffering from PTSD, contact a mental health professional or, if you need someone to talk to, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1.

Ingrid Herrera-Yee is a military researcher, clinical psychologist, educator, advocate, writer, speaker, and military spouse.

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Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after the Veteran experiences a traumatic event. During this type of event, the Veteran believes his/her life or others’ lives are in danger. She/he may feel afraid or feel that they have no control over what is happening. Note: this information is described as applying to Veterans, but is applicable to any individual. 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, the Veteran may feel scared, confused, or angry. If these feelings don’t go away or they get worse, the symptoms may disrupt the person’s life, making it hard to continue daily activities. All Veterans with PTSD have lived through a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain that may result in PTSD. Most Veterans who go through a traumatic event have some symptoms at the beginning. Yet only some will develop PTSD; the reason for this is not clear. How likely someone is to get PTSD depends on many things:

  • How intense the trauma was or how long it lasted
  • If someone close was lost hurt
  • Proximity to the event
  • Strength of the reaction to the event
  • How much the Veteran felt in control of events
  • How much help and support the Veteran got after the event

Many who develop PTSD may improve, though about 1 out of 3 with PTSD may continue to have some symptoms. Even with continued symptoms, treatment can help; symptoms don’t have to interfere with everyday activities, work, and relationships.

Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not occur until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause great distress, or interfere with work or homelife, the individual probably has PTSD. There are four types of PTSD symptoms:

1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):
Bad memories of the traumatic event can return at any time. The Veteran may feel the same fear and horror as when the event took place. He/she may have nightmares or may feel like he/she is going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger — a sound or sight that causes the Veteran to relive the event. Triggers might include:

  • Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat Veteran.
  • Seeing a car accident, which can remind a crash survivor of his or her own accident
  • Seeing a news report of a sexual assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped

2. Avoiding situations that are reminders of the event:
The Veteran may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event, and even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:

  • A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes.
  • A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants.
  • Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.

3. Feeling numb:
The Veteran may find it hard to express feelings. This is another way to avoid memories. He/she may not:

  • have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships
  • be interested in previously enjoyed activities
  • be able to remember parts of the traumatic event or be able to talk about them

4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyper-arousal):
The Veteran may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyper-arousal. It can cause:

  • Sudden anger or irritation
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentration
  • Fear for personal safety and a constant need to be on guard
  • Overreaction when something surprises him/her.

Other common problems
People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:

  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Employment problems
  • Relationship problems, including divorce and violence
  • Physical symptoms

When a Veteran has PTSD, dealing with the past can be difficult, and feelings are generally kept “bottled up”. Treatment must be provided by qualified hospice or VA staff. See PTSD Related Resources for additional information.

PTSD Related Resources
VA’s General Benefit Information Hotline: 1-800-827-1000

VA PTSD Homepage

PTSD guidebook for healthcare providers

VA National Center for PTSD (Healthcare Professionals)

VA National Center for PTSD (General Public)

My HealtheVet PTSD and Family Support

After Deployment

Real Warriors

Treatment of PTSD Fact Sheet

Facing Bad Memories at the Wall…and Moving On: Leaving PTSD Behind

Facing Down PTSD, Vet is Now Soaring High

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD

There are four types of PTSD symptoms, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:
    • You may have nightmares.
    • You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
    • You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
    • You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
    • You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
    • If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
    • You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
  3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:
    • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
    • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
    • You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:
    • You may have a hard time sleeping.
    • You may have trouble concentrating.
    • You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
    • You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD in Children?

Children may have symptoms described above or other symptoms depending on how old they are. As children get older, their symptoms are more like those of adults. Here are some examples of PTSD symptoms in children:

  • Children under 6 may get upset if their parents are not close by, have trouble sleeping, or act out the trauma through play.
  • Children age 7 to 11 may also act out the trauma through play, drawings, or stories. Some have nightmares or become more irritable or aggressive. They may also want to avoid school or have trouble with schoolwork or friends.
  • Children age 12 to 18 have symptoms more similar to adults: depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or reckless behavior like substance abuse or running away.

Read more about PTSD in Children and Teens, and Very Young Trauma Survivors.

Will People with PTSD Get Better?

After a traumatic event, it’s normal to think, act, and feel differently than usual—but most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. Talk to a doctor or mental health care provider (like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker) if your symptoms:

  • Last longer than a few months
  • Are very upsetting
  • Disrupt your daily life

“Getting better” means different things for different people. There are many different treatment options for PTSD. For many people, these treatments can get rid of symptoms altogether. Others find they have fewer symptoms or feel that their symptoms are less intense. Your symptoms don’t have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships.

What Treatments Are Available?

There are two main types of treatment, psychotherapy (sometimes called counseling or talk therapy) and medication. Sometimes people combine psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy for PTSD

Psychotherapy, or counseling, involves meeting with a therapist.

Trauma-focused psychotherapy, which focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning, is the most effective treatment for PTSD. There are different types of trauma-focused psychotherapy, such as:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) where you learn skills to understand how trauma changed your thoughts and feelings. Changing how you think about the trauma can change how you feel.
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) where you talk about your trauma repeatedly until memories are no longer upsetting. This will help you get more control over your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. You also go to places or do things that are safe, but that you have been staying away from because they remind you of the trauma.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which involves focusing on sounds or hand movements while you talk about the trauma. This helps your brain work through the traumatic memories.

Medications for PTSD

Medications can be effective too. Some specific SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), which are used for depression, also work for PTSD. These include sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine, and venlafaxine.

Persistent negative emotions – Veterans experience PTSD can be overwhelmed by negative feelings. A veteran may also feel difficulty establishing trust, experience feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, disinterest in previously enjoyable activities, or genuinely find it hard to feel happy.

Hypervigilance or hyperarousal – Veterans experiencing hyperarousal will feel constantly on alert and often uneasy in unfamiliar situations. For instance, they may prefer to find a seat facing the door in a restaurant, watch for dangerous people or objects in normal everyday situations, or feel the need to be near a point of egress. This can be distracting and make it difficult to focus or enjoy simple experiences, like dinner with family. Veterans with PTSD may also find it difficult to sleep or relax, be prone to anger or irritability, startle easily, act recklessly or abuse drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Does PTSD have to control the veteran?

There are ways to cope with PTSD, ways that empower a suffering veteran to take control of the PTSD rather than allowing it to control the veteran. Some of those coping mechanisms are outlined below:

Lifestyle changes – Interacting with other trauma survivors and other veterans who have experience with PTSD, exercising, eating healthy, volunteering, avoiding drugs and alcohol, spend more time with loved ones and practicing optimism are all helpful.

Mindfulness – To be mindful is to be aware of and concentrate on the present instead of dwelling on the past. It can be breathing exercises or focusing on a singular thing in your present—perhaps a certain smell or taste—and intensely focusing on that one thing.

Practicing optimism – Hunting for the good stuff in life, the things that create joy and a sense of peace or happiness, can help take focus off feelings of stress or anxiety. At some point in the day, it can be helpful to reflect on the good things that have happened in the last 24 hours. It can be a small as finding your favorite ink pen or something life-changing like birth of a child—whatever brings feelings of joy.

Peer groups – Finding others who have experienced similar events can help veterans feel comfortable talking about the traumatic events they have experienced and work through the intense emotions associated with them.

Emotional support animals – Many veterans who struggle with PTSD have adopted emotional support animals that help veterans feel more at ease and comfortable in situations that may otherwise cause them undue stress.

Professional help – Sometimes correcting emotional or chemical imbalances in the brain requires the help of professionals. There is no shame in asking for help with PTSD symptoms. Remember—it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of strength. The Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Centers offers combat veterans across the country provide a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referral services. Additionally, seeking help from a local DAV benefits expert can be a first step toward getting the help needed to diagnose and treat PTSD and other service-connected issues, or to find other resources that can help veterans and their families adjust to post-military life.

Exploring the options – There are many different ways to gain control over PTSD, including non-pharmacological options such as talk or recreation therapy. Exploring the different options and being open to new solutions can help veterans overcome the effects of PTSD.

What resources are available for a veteran struggling with PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition caused by exposure to traumatic events that are outside the normal range of human experience. These events shake the foundation that our mental health is built on and create a disconnect between the victim’s expectations and reality. The effects of PTSD in veterans are not always visible.

This disconnect causes sufferers to lose faith in the stability and normality of their world. Without this faith the smallest task becomes harder. The effects of PTSD create a deep distrust of natural laws and, in the worst cases, cause a complete loss of function as the sufferer retreats into anxiety and depression.

An overview of the effects of PTSD

With an increase in the number of cases during the Gulf War and War in Afghanistan, researchers are stepping up their efforts to understand both the cause and the effects of PTSD on veterans and civilians. Although many of the traumatic events that cause PTSD are found solely in combat, the effects can also be found in civilians who undergo accidents or abuse.

PTSD is present when the victim undergoes a traumatic event that they cannot intellectually process. Without integrating the experience, the human mind stops functioning correctly and resorts to one of three coping mechanisms to function. These three mechanisms are hyperarousal, re-experiencing and numbing/avoidance.


Some sufferers of PTSD cannot reset their body to its normal state. Their body continues to function at the heightened state it adopted during the traumatic event. The ‘fight or flight’ response doesn’t get turned off after the danger is over.

Hyperactivity, insomnia, lack of concentration, irritability and panic are just some of the effects of PTSD on victims who suffer from hyperarousal.


The effects of PTSD can also include re-experiencing for some victims. Whether it is mental flashbacks, bad dreams or intrusive memories, re-experiencing has a detrimental effect on the mental state of the sufferer.

Another form of re-experiencing includes physical memories. Automatic responses to stimuli that are exaggerated or out of place. Sometimes the body remembers when the mind does not.


At times, the body and/or mind just shut down when they cannot cope with an experience. The victim of this effect of PTSD acts like they are on autopilot, taking little interest in life or what goes on around them. They suffer from feeling of helplessness or hopelessness and cannot connect their feelings with the world going on around them.

Depression, anxiety, hopelessness and withdrawing from friends and family are all indicative of someone suffering from numbing/avoidance.

The effects of PTSD occur in all trauma

The symptoms of PTSD are present in all trauma victims to some degree. What sets PTSD apart from trauma is the length of the effects. The human mind is a highly adaptable organ and most victims of trauma eventually cope with the feelings of helplessness and are able to reconnect with their life. The effects of PTSD, however, have a longer term effect.

Many of the effects of PTSD make it difficult for the sufferers to recognize it in themselves and, even when they do, avoiding treatment is not unusual. Between the depression and the disconnect with normal life, many victims just don’t see the point in treatment.

In addition to the physical scars, many of our veterans returning from war zones carry mental and emotional scars that can affect them for years or their entire life. The effects of PTSD aren’t just a burden carried by the veterans, their families and friends have to learn to cope with PTSD, as well.


Make a difference in a vet’s life. We are veterans helping veterans.


APA PsycNET, Longitudinal analysis of the relationship between symptoms and quality of life in veterans treated for posttraumatic stress disorder, Paula Schnurr, Andrew Hayes, Carole Lunney, Miles McFall and Madeline Uddo

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