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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder than can develop after a person witnesses a traumatic event. A traumatic event can take many forms--a natural disaster, sexual abuse or a terrorist attack such as 9/11--but for veterans, PTSD is most often related to combat or military exposure.
In wars prior to Vietnam, the disorder was referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” and was not very well understood beyond the fact that it limited the soldier’s performance on the battlefield. Today, the disorder is more widely studied. We know that PTSD can lead to other mental health problems such as depression, social withdrawal and substance abuse.
The effects can also be long-term. According to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, one in three people who develop PTSD will continue to experience symptoms.
Recently the Veterans Administration changed the rules regarding claims related to PTSD. To get the most up-to-date information, see the statutes on pensions, bonuses and veterans’ relief online. For a summary of recent research see the March 2010 Final Draft Report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force.
The good news is that more resources and treatments are available today. Some new treatments, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), are being investigated. Others, such as Virtual Iraq, a video game designed for exposure therapy, are still in development. NAMI's Advocate magazine examined the role of service animals in the treatment of PTSD. Additional information on service dogs is below.
Our PTSD section for veterans includes resources where you can find out more about PTSD, learn about treatments and read about how PTSD affects families and children of veterans.
Post-deployment Brain Responses
Online: 15 minute lecture series from Massachusetts General Hospital on PTSD and other brain-related responses.
Tips for Filing a PTSD Claim with the VA
The Veterans Today blog posted a series of tips, resources and frequently asked questions regarding filing a PTSD claim.
VA Help Page for Veterans with PTSD
This page answers some basic questions about the claims process and links to other sources of help.
This fact sheet from NAMI contains an explanation of PTSD and general resources that are available.
Joining Forces initiative is a four-part series developed by HealthPartners in Minneapolis, in cooperation with the local public television station and partnering with the AHA. The series is designed to orient people in community hospitals to the kinds of challenges—medical, social and emotional—that veterans and their families face as they return home.
NAMI FaithNet was established for as a nonthreatening, supportive environment within the faith community for people living with serious mental illness and their families.
Understanding PTSD and Recovery, NAMI's brochure on PTSD
NAMI's brochure on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), its treatment and recovery.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Real Illness
An easy-to-read booklet on posttraumatic stress disorder created by the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH). It explains what PTSD is, when it starts, how long it lasts and how to get help. There is also a self-test.
Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute
The Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute offers extensive information online about PTSD, geographic lists of therapists with experience treating people with PTSD and books, articles and referrals to support groups. They also have information about self-injury. The free help desk service is useful for locating trauma resources in your area.
What is PTSD?
This fact sheet from the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD) is part of a larger educational resource for veterans, mental health practitioners, researchers and the general public.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
SAMHSA provides referrals to outpatient, inpatient and residential treatment facilities, including affordable mental health services. Their website has a Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator to help find substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment.
Psychiatric Service Dog Society (PSDS)
Some veterans have found service dogs to be helpful in their recovery from PTSD. Explore the resources available from PSDS that are specifically designed for veterans wishing to train their own animals.
American Psychiatric Association (APA)
The APA has information about a broad range of mental health topics. To locate a psychiatrist in your area, you can contact APA's Answer Center using their toll-free number:1 (888) 357-7924.
Defense Update magazine's website describes a treatment currently in development for PTSD called Virtual Iraq, an exposure therapy treatment using virtual simulation of events in Iraq.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Institute offers information on EMDR, an emerging treatment for PTSD. NAMI recommends reviewing this option with a psychiatrist who is familiar with it before proceeding.