By Jonathan Kaupanger
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or even witnessing a life-threatening event such as combat, natural disasters, accidents or sexual assault.
June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has shared their top five reasons to get treatment for this mental illness.
Early treatment is better
Symptoms of PTSD can get worse and make it hard to continue your daily activities. Only a doctor or a mental health provider can diagnose the disorder, but symptoms typically start soon after the traumatic event.
For some, it may take months after the event for symptoms to show up, while others may have warning signs come and go for many years. If you experience PTSD symptoms for more than four weeks, are in great distress, or if your work or home life is being disrupted, you could have PTSD and should seek professional help.
Treatment can help
The PTSD Treatment Decision Aid is a free online tool that helps educate veterans and their family about PTSD and encourages them to participate in decisions about the care they will receive.
“The health and well-being of the courageous men and women who have served their country in uniform is the VA’s highest priority,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin. “The PTSD Treatment Decision Aid is an important step in putting veterans in control of their health care. By helping to bridge understanding and communication between veterans and providers about the most effective treatment options available, we are ensuring veterans receive the treatment that best promote their healing and recovery.
PTSD symptoms can affect those you love
Symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you’re pulling away from loved ones, have difficulties getting along with people or are possibly angry or violent.
PTSD often causes issues with trust, closeness, communication and problem-solving. Relationships with others is important for trauma survivors. Social support is one of the best things to protect against getting PTSD.
PTSD can be related to other health problems
Symptoms from PTSD can affect your health in other ways. Sleep problems, substance abuse, chronic pain, self-harm and even suicide are just a few examples.
There are even a few studies that show 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 doesn’t always mean you have PTSD. For example, trouble concentrating or feeling less interested in things you use to enjoy can be symptoms of both depression and PTSD. Different problems means different treatments.
The VA has helped developed mobile applications for those looking for information, education or even self-help. There are apps for both iOS and Android devices, but it’s important to remember that these apps are not intended to replace professional care.
PTSD Coach is an app that helps you learn about and manage symptoms that can happen after trauma. Features include: reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work, tools for screening and tracking your symptoms, convenient and easy to use tools to help you handle stress and direct links to support and help.
If someone in your family suffers from PTSD, then the PTSD Family Coach app may be what you need. This app was designed as a standalone tool to help you learn about PTSD and access resources to help support your loved ones. The app can also help you learn how to take care of yourself and how to manage your relationship with your loved one or children.
Practicing mindfulness means grounding yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful for reducing stress and coping with unpleasant thoughts and emotions. The Mindfulness Coach app was developed for people who may be experiencing emotional distress and for those wanting to maintain healthy coping skills. This app can be used on its own or to enhance face-to-face care with a healthcare professional.
Vet Change is an app for veterans and service members who are concerned about their drinking and how it relates to PTSD. Tools for cutting down or quitting drinking and information about alcohol use and how it relates to PTSD symptoms are just some of the features.
The VA has treatment companion apps as well. CPT Coach is an app that helps you work with your therapist during Cognitive Processing Therapy. The app helps you keep track of homework, appointments and PTSD symptoms. PE Coach can be used during Prolonged Exposure Therapy. Both of these apps are not meant to be self-help tools.
The VA has many ways to get help for PTSD, like the PTSD Program Locator that helps you find local specialized PTSD Programs. Even if there is no specific PTSD program in your area, you can contact your local VA Medical Center and ask for the Mental Health Clinic. If you need immediate assistance, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1.