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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Topic Overview

What can you do if you think you have PTSD?

If you think you have PTSD, it's important to get treatment. Treatment can work, and early treatment may help reduce long-term symptoms.1, 2

If you think you have PTSD:

  • Talk to your family doctor.
  • Talk to a mental health professional, such as a therapist.
  • If you're a veteran, contact your local VA hospital or Vet Center.
  • Talk to a close friend or family member. He or she may be able to support you and find you help.
  • Talk to a religious leader.
  • Fill out this form(What is a PDF document?) and take it with you to the doctor.

If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, call911, 1-800-273-TALK (suicide hotline), or go to a hospital emergency room.

How does PTSD develop?

All people with PTSD have personally experienced—or have experienced through others—a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain that may result in PTSD.3

Many people who go through a traumatic event don't get PTSD. It isn't clear why some people develop PTSD and others don't. How likely you are to get PTSD depends on many things. These include:

  • How intense the trauma was.
  • If you lost a loved one or were hurt.
  • How close you were to the event.
  • How strong your reaction was.
  • How much you felt in control of events.
  • How much help and support you got after the event.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. About half of people who develop PTSD get better at some time. But other people who develop PTSD always will have some symptoms.4

If you have symptoms of PTSD, counseling can help you cope. Your symptoms don't have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships. It is never too late to get professional help or other forms of support that can help you manage the symptoms of PTSD.

Reminders and anniversaries of the event can make symptoms worse.

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