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Published On: June 1st, 2022|741 words|2.5 min read|
Rebecca Matteo is a medical sociologist and web content manger at VA's National Center for PTSD
On June 27, 2022, the National Center for PTSD is launching National PTSD Screening Day, encouraging Veterans and others who experienced trauma to start the conversation about recovery. Learning whether you have symptoms that might be PTSD is an important step to getting the treatment you deserve.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident or sexual assault. While most people experience trauma, not all of them develop PTSD.
After a trauma, it’s common to relive the traumatic event, avoid reminders of it, have more negative thoughts and feelings, or feel on edge or on the lookout for danger.
People who experience these symptoms longer than a month may have PTSD. While the only way to know for sure is to talk to a professional, like a primary care doctor or mental health care provider, there are self-screen questionnaires for PTSD.
“The message we want to share about PTSD is one of hope,” says Dr. Paula Schnurr, executive director of the National Center for PTSD. “PTSD is treatable and it’s a normal response to trauma, not a sign of weakness. If you have PTSD, you can get help. Taking a PTSD self-screen is a step toward recovery.”
What is a PTSD screen?
A PTSD screen, or screening questionnaire, is a short set of questions. The screen helps you understand if your feelings and behaviors are related to PTSD. One screening questionnaire is the Primary Care PTSD Checklist, or PC-PTSD-5. The PC-PTSD-5 is only five questions. After confirming you experienced a serious trauma, it asks how that event may have affected the way you’ve felt or acted in the past month.
After taking the PC-PTSD-5, you add up your “yes” answers. If your score is three or more, you may have PTSD. The next step is to schedule an appointment to speak with a health care provider.
If you answered yes to one or two questions, and are bothered by your symptoms, you can still make an appointment. A health care provider can help you make a plan to manage the things that continue to bother you since the trauma.
“Screening is an important first step, but it’s just the beginning,” says Schnurr. “Anyone can get PTSD. And everyone can get treatment for PTSD.”
Next steps & helpful resources
While June 27th is PTSD Screening Day, the PTSD self-screen is always available, so you don’t need to wait. If the results of your screen suggest you may have PTSD, you’ll need to find a mental health care provider. There are Veteran-specific services at every VA Medical Center. And if you’re not sure how to start the conversation with a provider, you can tell them you completed a PTSD screen or take a copy with you.
If you’re not ready to reach out to a provider, there are resources that can help you learn more. The Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment booklet is a good place to start. You can also hear from Veterans who turned their lives around with PTSD treatment at AboutFace. The Veterans who share their stories on the site have been there.
Maybe you are concerned about a family member or friend. If you’ve noticed symptoms of PTSD or a change in behavior, you can encourage them to screen for PTSD or support them as they go through treatment for PTSD. The Understanding PTSD: A Guide for Family and Friends booklet may be helpful.
Family and friends great source of comfort and support
“Oftentimes family and friends will notice a change in a trauma survivor, and they can be a great source of comfort and support,” says Schnurr. “It’s very common for Veterans to enter treatment because of their family.”
No matter what type of trauma you experienced or when you experienced that trauma, treatment can help. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of PTSD, take the self-screen and reach out to a provider today.
As Army Veteran Penny Anderson notes, “Regardless of how you may have gotten PTSD, you have the ability to go and get help. And to do that, you’re going to set yourself free. You’re going to have the life that you deserve.”
Vantage Point, VA’s official blog, has transitioned to VA News. For the latest in VA news and information, visit the new site at news.va.gov and update your bookmarks. Vantage Point is no longer being updated.