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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Frequently Asked Questions


1.What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, ritual), and violent personal assaults like rape. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life.

PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms. PTSD is complicated by the fact that it frequently occurs in conjunction with related disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person's ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.

For a further definition, please go to What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2.What treatments are available for PTSD?

Elements common to many treatment modalities for PTSD include education, exposure, exploration of feelings and beliefs, and coping skills training. Additionally, the most common treatment modalities include cognitive-behavioral treatment, pharmacotherapy, EMDR, group treatment, and psychodynamic treatment.

For a further discussion, please go to Treatment of PTSD

3.How do I locate specialists or support groups for PTSD?

You can contact any of the following organizations. They all have referral capabilities: the Sidran Foundation 410-825-8888, Anxiety Disorders Association of America 212-543-5355; American Psychological Association 800-964-2000; NAMI 800-950-6264

Also, your local Mental Health Services office (found in the Yellow Pages of your telephone book) should be able to assist you.

To locate help online, please click on Seeking Help for PTSD.

4. I am an American Veteran. Who do I contact for help with PTSD?

You can contact your local VA Hospital or Veterans Center or call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll free at 1-877-222-VETS!

For online help, please go to Specialized PTSD Treatment Programs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

5. As an American Veteran, how do I file a claim for disability due to PTSD?

A determination of "service-connected" disability for PTSD is made by the Compensation and Pension Service -- an arm of VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. The clinicians who provide care for veterans in VA's specialized PTSD clinics and Vet Centers do not make this decision. A formal request ("claim") must be filed by the veteran using forms provided by the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. After the forms are completely submitted, the veteran must complete interviews concerning her or his "social history" (a review of family, work, and educational experiences before, during, and after military service) and "psychiatric status" (a review of past and current psychological symptoms, and of traumatic experiences during military service). The forms and information about the application process can be obtained by Benefits Officers at any VA Medical Center, Outpatient Clinic, or Regional Office.

The process of applying for a VA disability for PTSD can take several months, and can be both complicated and quite stressful. The Veteran's Service Organizations provide "Service Officers" at no cost to help veterans and family members pursue VA disability claims. Service Officers are familiar with every step in the application and interview process, and can provide both technical guidance and moral support. In addition, some Service Officers particularly specialize in assisting veterans with PTSD disability claims. Even if a veteran has not been a member of a specific Veterans Service Organization, the veteran still can request the assistance of a Service Officer working for that organization. In order to get representation by a qualified and helpful Service Officer, you can directly contact the local office of any Veterans Service Organization -- or ask for recommendations from other veterans who have applied for VA disability, or from a PTSD specialist at a VA PTSD clinic or a Vet Center.

For online information, please click on Help for Veterans and Their Families.

6. Do you have brochures/handouts/videos available?

Anything on our website is in the Public Domain and is free for you to use, reproduce, and distribute as needed. Especially useful are Facts about PTSD where general facts, facts about treatment, information for veterans, and specific topics related to trauma are located.

Brochures are and videos are currently under development, and will be posted on the website as soon as they are made available for distribution.

7. Does the National Center for PTSD publish any journals? How do I subscribe?

Yes, the National Center publishes two journals.

The PTSD Research Quarterly contains review articles on specific topics related to PTSD, written by guest experts. Each article contains a selective bibliography with abstracts and a supplementary list of annotated citations. The Research Quarterly is sent free of charge to qualified readers, and is available to others by subscription from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office. It is received by many government documents depository libraries. Or you may obtain a copy of any issue from this Web site. Each issue of the PTSD Research Quarterly is available in Portable Document Format (PDF), which reproduces the exact format of the paper edition. You may read the issue on your computer monitor, or print it on your PostScript printer. In order to read or print PDF documents, you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The appropriate version for your computer may be obtained free of charge from the Adobe Web site.

The NCPTSD Clinical Quarterly is published by the Clinical Laboratory and Education Division of the National Center for PTSD. It is addressed to the needs of practicing PTSD clinicians and program administrators, providing them with an overview of the major clinical, theoretical, and programmatic developments in the field.

To be placed on the mailing list for either subscription, please contact Sandra Mariotti at or tel. 802-296-5132 ext. 5132.

8.How do I locate books on PTSD?

You can buy books here for the consumer and the clinician at Mental Health Today at http:/

9. I am a professional who would like to know what training is available from the National Center for PTSD.

Clinical Training Program

The Clinical Laboratory and Education offers an on-site clinical training program in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress. The training program is 35 hours long, and is approved for category 1 continuing medical education credit.

National Disaster Mental Health Program

The National Center for PTSD) along with the Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) provide a training program designed to develop a national cadre of VA Medical Center (VAMC) and RCS mental health personnel prepared to respond to regional and national disasters.

Advanced Disaster Mental health training workshops

The National Center offers VA employees a two-Day training on disaster mental health intervention, including elements of assessment, outreach, crisis intervention, VAís integration with other agencies, and short-term treatment.

For more information, see Training Opportunities at NCPTSD.

10. As a professional, I need to locate a specific assessment instrument for PTSD. How do I do that?

Three assessment instruments, CAPS, CAPS-CA, and TESI-C, can be requested online through the National Center for PTSD website. For more information, see Assessment.


The information on this Web site 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 This page was last updated on Wed Jul 10 15:22:30 2002.


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