PTSD: Many resources available for those with this condition

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur after a person goes through a traumatic event, such as combat, assault or a disaster.

Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don't go away over time, or if they disrupt your life, you may have PTSD.

If you are in crisis, there are options available to you.

• Call 911 if you feel you may hurt yourself or someone else.

• Go to the nearest emergency room.

• Contact the Veterans Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255, press 1 (text 838255).

The natural first action is to determine whether you may have PTSD. You should know that having symptoms does not always mean that you have PTSD.

Some reactions to stress and trauma are normal. Since many common reactions look like the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, a doctor must decide if you have PTSD. Also, stressors other than trauma may cause symptoms that are like those of PTSD.

For example, work or money problems can lead to symptoms. Medical problems such as heart disease or diabetes, or mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, can have symptoms that resemble PTSD. That is why you should see a provider who is trained to recognize the symptoms of PTSD.

If you have other problems, can you also have PTSD? Veterans with PTSD often have other types of problems. They might have other stress, medical or mental health problems. Sometimes PTSD is overlooked when other problems seem very pressing. If you have questions, ask your doctor if post-traumatic stress also needs to be treated.

The Veterans Administration website, www.ptsd.va.gov, offers a wealth of information on this subject.

If you want to take a self-screening for PTSD, please follow these instructions.

In your life, have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible, or upsetting that in the past month you:

• Have had nightmares about it or thought about it when you did not want to?

• Tried hard not to think about it or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of it?

• Were constantly on guard, watchful or easily startled?

• Felt numb or detached from others, activities or your surroundings?

If you answered "yes" to any three items, you should think about seeing a doctor for an assessment.

You can also take a longer PTSD questionnaire and take it with you to the doctor. (While this screening asks about military experiences, you can also answer the questions as they would apply to any other kind of trauma.) The screen can be accessed at www.myhealth.va.gov (click on the "My Health Vet" link, then the "research health" link).

After completing the questionnaire, you will receive recommendations on how to proceed. I completed this screening and was very surprised at the result.

Many people who might need assistance with something like the symptoms of PTSD are afraid to go for help. One out of five people say they might not get help because of what other people might think, and one out of three people say they would not want anyone else to know they were in therapy.

A study of soldiers coming home from Iraq found that only four in 10 service members with mental health problems said they would get help. Some of the most common reasons they gave were they might be seen as weak, or it might hurt their military (or civilian) career.

You can click on the following link to watch five whiteboard videos that may change your life: www.ptsd.va.gov (click on the "whiteboard videos" link).

I have talked with many veterans who have taken advantage of the Veterans Administration PTSD programs. Most tell me that the programs really work. I suggest you give it a try. All the information in this article has been researched through the VA at their website, www.VA.gov.

Don't be afraid to "take the plunge." Get the help you need. I wish you well.