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A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet

PTSD: The symptoms

Most people who are exposed to a traumatic, stressful event experience some of the symptoms of PTSD in the days and weeks following exposure, but the symptoms generally decrease over time and eventually disappear. However, about 8% of men and 20% of women go on to develop PTSD, and roughly 30% of these individuals develop a chronic form that persists throughout their lifetimes.

Three clusters of symptoms are associated with PTSD:

Re-experiencing of the traumatic event:

·  Recurring nightmares

·  Intrusive daydreams or flashbacks

·  Dissociative experiences

·  Intensification of symptoms upon exposure to reminders of the event

Avoidance or numbing:

·  Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, activities, or situations associated with the trauma

·  Feelings of detachment or alienation

·  Inability to have loving feelings

Hyper-arousal:

·  Exaggerated startle response

·  Insomnia and other sleep disturbances

·  Irritability or outbursts of anger

·  Physiological reactions to exposure to reminders of the event

Related Disorders:

PTSD often occurs in conjunction with related disorders and symptoms, including:

·  Depression and feelings of guilt and hopelessness

·  Substance abuse

·  Disillusionment with authority

·  Problems with memory and cognition

Functional Impairment:

PTSD often results in the impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family situations.  Such problems include:

·  Occupational instability

·  Marital problems and divorces

·  Discord with family and friends

·  Difficulties in parenting

The course of chronic PTSD usually involves periods of symptom increase followed by remission or decrease, although for some individuals symptoms may be unremitting and severe.

How is PTSD assessed and treated?

In recent years, a great deal of research has been aimed at developing and testing reliable assessment tools. It is generally thought that the best way to diagnose PTSD—or any psychiatric disorder, for that matter—-is to combine findings from structured interviews and questionnaires with physiological assessments. PTSD is treated with a variety of forms of psychotherapy and drug therapy. There is no definitive treatment, and no cure, but some treatments appear to be quite promising and researchers are continually seeking improved treatments.

Seeking Help

Listed below are some ways to find help. When you call, tell whomever you speak to that you are trying to find a mental-health provider who specializes in helping people who have been through traumatic events and/or who have lost loved ones. Check this website regularly for updated information on how to get help. We will be listing more ways to get help as they become available.

For veterans

VA medical centers and Vet Centers provide veterans with mental-health services that health insurance will cover or that costs little or nothing, according to a veteran’s ability to pay. VA medical centers and Vet Centers are listed in the phone book in the blue Government pages. Under "United States Government Offices," look in the section for "Veterans Affairs, Dept of." In that section look for VA Medical Centers and Clinics listed under "Medical Care" and for "Vet Centers — Counseling and Guidance," and call the one nearest to where you live. On the Internet, go to www.va.gov/ and look for the VHA Facilities Locator link under "Health Benefits and Services," or go to www.va.gov/rcs.

For non-veterans

Some local mental-health services are listed in the phone book in the blue Government pages. In the "County Government Offices" section for the county where you live, look for a "Health Services (Dept. of)" or "Department of Health Services" section. In that section, look for listings under "Mental Health." In the yellow pages, services and mental-health professionals are listed under "counseling," "psychologists," "social workers," "psychotherapists," “social and human services," or "mental health." Health insurance may pay for mental-health services and some are available at low cost according to your ability to pay.

For anyone

Call your doctor’s office or ask friends if they can recommend any mental-health providers.

If you work for a large company or organization, call the Human Resources or Personnel office to find out if they provide mental-health services or make referrals.

If you are a member of a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), call to find out if mental-health services are available.

Call the National Center for Victims of Crime's toll-free information and referral service at 1-800-FYI-CALL. This is a comprehensive database of more than 6,700 community service agencies throughout the country that directly support victims of crime.

Contact your local mental-health agencies or family physician. The National Center has a fact sheet with information on talking to your primary care physician about trauma and PTSD.

Online Resources:

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America offers a referral network of professional therapists, as well as a self-help group network.

The National Institute of Mental Health Anxiety Disorders has published an extensive list of mental health organizations to help the consumer find more information about anxiety disorders and related issues, as well as to obtain referrals for specialists in different geographical areas.

Sidran offers a referral list of professional therapists, as well as a fact sheet on how to choose a therapist for PTSD and dissociative disorders.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) has a website with information on advocacy for those with mental illness, including affiliates who provide family support groups in different states.

About.com's trauma resource page offers a comprehensive listing of information, resources, links, and support groups on a wide array of topics related to trauma, particularly incest and child abuse.

Facts for health offers a referral database for clinicians based on clinicians who have completed a continuing education course on PTSD or clinicians who have been identified by the directors of the Madison Institute of Medicine as being specialists in PTSD.

The holistic health yellow pages offer a referral network of holistic practitioners.

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The information is presented for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider.

All information contained on these pages is in the public domain unless explicit notice is given to the contrary, and may be copied and distributed without restriction.

For more information call the PTSD Information Line at (802) 296-6300 or send email to ncptsd@ncptsd.org. This page was last updated on Sun Oct 13 15:18:45 2002.

 

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