Traumatic Brain Injury Services Home home

Information on PSTSD

   cover art

PTSD is a condition that develops after someone has experienced a life threatening situation, such as combat. A situation must have caused an emotional reaction involving intense fear, hopelessness or horror. Individuals with PTSD experience symptoms for weeks or months after the event is over and the individual is in a safe environment.


Re-experiencing the event over and over again

  • You cannot put it out of your mind no matter how hard you try
  • You have repeated nightmares about the event
  • You have vivid memories, almost like it was happening all over again
  • You have a strong reaction when you encounter reminders, such as a car backfiring

Avoiding people, places or feelings that remind you of the event

  • You work hard at putting it out of your mind
  • You feel numb and detached so you do not have to feel anything
  • You avoid people or places that remind you of the event

Feeling "keyed up" on edge all the time

  • You may startle easily
  • You may be irritable or angry all the time for no apparent reason
  • You are always looking around, hyper-vigilant of your surroundings
  • You may have trouble relaxing or getting to sleep

People who have PTSD have experiences from all three categories that stay with them most of the time and interfere with their ability to live life or do their job.

Most service members do not experience PTSD. You can experience some symptoms of PTSD without having a diagnosis of PTSD. If you have symptoms, you can benefit from counseling or therapy. PTSD is treatable. Therapy has proven to be very effective in reducing or eliminating the symptoms. Medication can also help. Early treatment leads to the best outcomes.6

A PTSD self-assessment is available at

6 Deployment Health Clinical Center. (2007, April 23). Post Traumatic Brain Injury (PSTD).


Treatment of PTSD


There are many treatments available for PTSD to assist in regaining quality of life as well as ones' functional abilities. Some of these treatments include cognitive behavior therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, medications, and therapies by trained professionals.



There are several medications that have been used successfully in combination with therapeutic interventions, personal support and exercise (not an all inclusive list) in symptom management of PTSD. One example of a commonly used medication to assist in symptom management is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a type of anti-depressant medicine. These can help you feel less sad and worried. Chemicals in your brain affect the way you feel. When you have PTSD or depression, you may not have enough of a chemical called serotonin. SSRIs raise the level of serotonin in your brain. Talk to your doctor before starting or stopping a medication or additional interventions.

What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

The therapist helps you understand and assists you in changing how you think about your trauma and its aftermath. Your goal is to understand how certain thoughts about your trauma cause stress and make your symptoms worse. You will identify thoughts about the world and yourself that are making you feel afraid or upset. With the help of your therapist, you will learn to replace these thoughts with more accurate and less distressing thoughts. You will learn to cope with feelings such as anger, guilt and fear.

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)?

EMDR is a newer therapy for PTSD. It can help change how you react to memories of your trauma. While talking about your memories, you will focus on distractions like eye movements, hand taps and sounds. Studies have shown it may help you have fewer PTSD symptoms.

What is exposure or desensitization therapy?

In exposure or desensitization therapy, your goal is to have less fear about your memories. By talking to your therapist about your trauma, you will learn to gain control of your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. You can change how you react to stressful memories with the help of your therapist. You can begin by discussing less upsetting memories and deal with bad memories a bit at a time. You may also practice different ways to relax when you are having a stressful memory, such as breathing exercises. Your goal is to find interventions that fit you and help you through this process of healing.

Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

In this therapy, you learn ways of dealing with emotional conflicts caused by your trauma. It helps you understand how you feel now. Your therapist can help you: identify what triggers your stressful memories or other symptoms, find ways to cope with intense feelings about the past, become aware of your thoughts and feelings, and raise your self-esteem.

Group Therapy

In group therapy, you talk with a group of people who have been through a trauma and who have PTSD. Sharing your story with others may help you feel more comfortable talking about your trauma. It can help you cope with your symptoms, memories, and other parts of your life. It helps you build relationships with others who understand what you have been through. You can build selfconfidence and trust, as well as learn how to focus on your present life.

Family Therapy

PTSD can impact your whole family. Your family might not understand why you get angry or why you are under so much stress. They may feel scared, guilty or angry. Family therapy is a type of counseling that involves your whole family. A therapist helps you and your family communicate more effectively, maintain good relationships, and cope with tough emotions. Your family can express their fear and concerns. You can listen and talk about your PTSD symptoms and what triggers them. You can discuss the important parts of treatment and recovery.7

7 National Center for PTSD. (2010). Fact Sheet: Treatment of PTSD.