Central Texas Veterans Health Care System
PTSD Frequently Asked Questions
- What is PTSD?
- What kind of treatment is there for PTSD?
- Can family members be included?
- Where are treatment resources nearest to me?
- How do I contact these treatment resources?
- What do I do in the meantime?
- If I come to the residential unit, will I be in a locked unit?
- How can I explain to my family what I am experiencing with PTSD?
- Does your program treat sexual trauma?
- I am upset by news stories about American military personnel who are currently deployed. My PTSD symptoms are increasing. What should I do?
1. What is PTSD?
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a trauma- and stressor-related disorder that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening. Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. After the event, you may feel scared, confused, or angry. If these feelings don't go away over time or disrupt your life, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities. The VA's National Center for PTSD provides more information for those learning about PTSD.
2. What kind of treatment is there for PTSD?
The VA is probably the world leader in treatment for PTSD. Treatment comes in many forms, but the most frequent forms combine psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy, along with stress management and irritability management techniques are often used very successfully with problems of PTSD. Healing begins when the survivor realizes that the trauma was real and had real effects on his/her life, not all of which are adaptive in terms of "ordinary" living.
Trauma creates overwhelming fear and leaves in its wake a feeling that the world is not a safe place. Recovery thus begins with establishing a safe place, a situation within which the survivor can feel some sense of safety and predictability. This involves developing an honesty about and awareness of the fear. As the fear subsides, the survivor is able to focus on other feelings and symptoms, to recognize them, search them for meaning, and decide whether or not to act on them. Further steps involve remembrance and mourning and reconnecting with the world, accepting the changes that the trauma has made in the survivor's life and deepening intimacy with others in ways that were not possible before.
3. Can family members be included?
Since PTSD in its chronic form most definitely affects family functioning, it is usually very helpful to involve family members in treatment. Sometimes basic education about PTSD is all that is needed; in other cases, couples therapy is also used as an adjunct to treatment.
4. Where are treatment resources nearest to me?
All VA's have resources to treat PTSD. Vet Centers also are very specialized in treatment of this problem.
5. How do I contact these treatment resources?
For the resource nearest you, click on the "Locations" link near the top of this page.
- Learn more about PTSD. The National Center for PTSD is a good place to start this learning. Search for the NCPTSD in your favorite internet search engine
- Stay away from drinking, marijuana, and other drugs. Sometimes trauma survivors turn to alcohol and drugs to help them cope with PTSD symptoms. While these substances may distract you from your painful feelings for a short time, relying on alcohol and drugs always causes more problems than it solves. These substances get in the way of PTSD treatment and recovery.
- Stay involved and invested in personal relationships. Most trauma survivors have a family member, a partner, or an old friend or work buddy. Make an effort to renew or increase contact with that person. Others can offer you emotional support as you change your habits and behaviors.
- In a few cases, your symptoms may be so severe that you need immediate help. Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you think that you cannot keep from hurting yourself or someone else. If you are not in immediate danger, call the Veterans Crisis Line for help and support. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or chat online to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
7. If I come to the residential unit, will I be in a locked unit?
No. The residential unit is an open unit. Vets are routinely taken off the medical center grounds and out into the community. They are encouraged to request passes on weekends to visit family and attend to personal business. A vet may also decide to end his/her treatment episode at any time.
8. How can I explain to my family what I am experiencing with PTSD?
The vet's peers in the program are a valuable source of ideas for talking with family about military combat and about PTSD. This VA educational web site may also spark valuable discussion.
9. Does your program treat sexual trauma?
Yes. The outpatient PTSD clinics, or "PCTs" see Veterans whose sexual trauma is miltary-related. Additionally, Central Texas offers a residential program dedicated to the unique needs of sexual trauma survivors. Veterans seeking residential treatment and whose trauma is of a sexual nature may be better served by the Women's Trauma Recovery Center. Your Primary Care provider or your primary Mental Health provider can refer you to the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) program.
- Protect your sobriety.
- If you are not currently involved in outpatient PTSD groups, call your vet center, outpatient clinic, or VA medical center to ask about getting involved in a group. If you are involved in an outpatient program, you may need to temporarily increase your involvement. Your physician may want to temporarily adjust your medications. Talk to him or her about it.
- If watching the news coverage bothers you, consider limiting the amount of time you watch and/or getting your news in bite-size pieces from sources other than 24-hour news channels. Read the newspaper instead, or watch the news only at the regular evening broadcast, rather than watching for hours and hours.
- Be sure to take breaks from news coverage and spend the time talking with other live human beings. Go out for coffee and chat with the other patrons, call other vets or friends and family just to talk -- about positive things, not about terrorism or war.
- Keep up social ties. It is easy to feel very isolated and cut off from the human world when PTSD symptoms worsen. You need relationships now more than ever. Call or go see a friend, family member, sponsor, or another vet. Check out your ideas with them. Sometimes we need the feedback from other people to let us know when our thinking is awry. Relationships also offer empathy and support and a distraction from anxiety-provoking thoughts and memories.
- Keep up your daily routine. If you work, go to work. If you are disabled, keep to your routine around the house, doing chores, volunteering, or however you normally structure your time.
- Take care of your physical health. Stay on medications, eat at mealtimes, sleep at night, get some exercise.
- Acknowledge whatever feelings you are experiencing. If you are angry, feel angry (but do NOT hurt anyone with your anger). If you are frightened, feel frightened. If you are sad, feel sad. If you want to laugh and have fun, laugh and have fun.
- If you don't feel like talking, journal about what you are feeling.
- Consider volunteering for helpful community programs.
- For more information, contact your PTSD care program. Here is a link to the National Center for PTSD.