There’s a saying that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. This is especially true of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is in the headlines now more than ever before. However well intended, sometimes news stories paint an incomplete picture of PTSD and even contribute to misunderstanding and stereotypes. This is why it is critically important to raise awareness of what we really know about PTSD.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. The National Center for PTSD at VA continually promotes public awareness and understanding of PTSD. In June we ask everyone else to join our efforts.

Our campaign theme this year is “Take the Step,” and we want everyone to take the step during PTSD Awareness Month (and beyond) to challenge their beliefs about PTSD and make sure those beliefs are supported by research.

Greater public awareness of PTSD can help reduce the stigma of this mental health problem and overcome the negative stereotypes that keep many people from pursuing treatment. For those living with PTSD, knowing there are PTSD treatments that can help allows them to seek needed care. Conversely, lack of information or misinformation can keep people with PTSD from seeking the help they need.

Here are just a couple of examples.

Contrary to what many believe, anyone can develop PTSD: Veterans and non-Veterans, men and women, the very young and the elderly.  Seven to eight percent of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives—that’s up to 25 million people, based on current U.S. population estimates, and many more are affected by a loved one’s PTSD.  Chances are that someone you know has PTSD.

Although most people exposed to trauma experience stress reactions, the majority are resilient.  Many do not develop PTSD. Mental health experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not.

Another misconception is that PTSD treatment doesn’t work. Everyone needs to know that there are treatments for PTSD that can help and that treatment is not only for those whose symptoms are severe. Several forms of counseling, such as cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure (PE), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), have been demonstrated to work for most people with PTSD.  CPT, PE, and EMDR are active treatments where the patient and therapist work together to develop skills to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings. Sessions are goal-oriented.

Several types of medications, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), have also been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms.

These therapies and medications have the best evidence as effective treatments for PTSD, supported by many years of research by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and others.

For anyone affected by PTSD—you, a member of your family or a friend—it is essential to know the symptoms of PTSD, its effective treatments, and where to get help. Our Web site,, which offers a wealth of information on PTSD, is a great place to start. We encourage you to join us to help people who are living with PTSD—we cannot do it alone. Share what you learn to build awareness and support systems for all who are affected by PTSD.

Dr. Matthew J. Friedman is Executive Director of the US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Professor of Psychiatry and of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. He has worked with PTSD patients as a clinician and researcher for more than 35 years and has published extensively on stress and PTSD, biological psychiatry, psychopharmacology, and clinical outcome studies on depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and chemical dependency. He has over 200 publications, including 23 books and monographs.

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Published on Jun. 25, 2013

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  1. Sandy July 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    A couple of things: I attended the fantastic program at the Women’s Trauma Recovery Program in Menlo Park. It helped tremendously. Unfortunately, at the end of the program I was essentially left to fend for myself. There were never any attempts to follow up, and I basically was taken from a place where I had supportive therapy every day of the week to the once every other week care I could get from the military. I think that is shameful, because it essentially left me worse off than before, and probably at the lowest point in my life. When I tried to phone the program to get help connecting to a provider in my local area, no one would talk to me. They essentially abandoned me.

    Second, why doesn’t the WTRP have a facebook page? i would love to be able to connect with some of the women I attended the program with.

  2. karen H June 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I am not a veteran but I have PTSD from numerous traumas including being stalked, chased, a raped by two males when I was 13. I am disgusted with the incompetency of the va and the lack of funding for mental health treatment in this country. The state of florida being one of the worse. If everyone who has PTSD can get competent treatment our lives can be lived like they should be, also the country as a whole would benefit. I am currently working with a good therapist doing EMDR. It can be very challenging to go thru this therapy, yet I keep at it because I have been helped by it. I don;t know all of the issues with the va and it’s veterans, but the veterans need to be assisted in overcoming PTSD and compensated appropriatly for their suffering in “THE NAME OF OUR COUNTRY” How can we arrogantly call the USA the greatest nation on earth when the very humans who fight for tthat honor are so neglected.

  3. Joshua S Sparrow June 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Is when the end of the month comes, you have pawned or sold all of your good personal things and are waiting for the reults of the VA after 4 successful appeals and decisions, for the amount of your expected increase in C& P and you wait years and months, and 9,months since the last BVA decision affirming the previous decision which was changed by a rating person who never read your file (whch they probably can’t find anyhow, so that might plan a weekend away with wife in privacy, and the decision never comes. When you try to sleep and these facts ride with you through sleepless nights and you are 82 years old. And, yes, you have $40 in your pocket, onthe 27th of hemonth and nothing coming in until the 1st of the next month, you have already borrowed against that fund, and you have no means of solving the problem. You feel totally betrayed by your nation and your VA for a war you were in 60 years ago, and the next visit to the doctor, tomorrow is to determine if the colon cancer you are allegedly free of is returning, and you are supporting awife, who has had 4 operations since Oct. 2, 2012 and cannot use her right arm for anything of value, and you are supporting a daughter aged 39 divorced and injured on the job and you might as well say it for me, I am totally helpless in sollving this problem and sometimes wonder if I should even both to do so.That is the definition of Post and Current Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I would like help, but the only one of value is in the cards of the V A who hire more people, do less work, and whose backlog gets worse daily and you have to make a trip a day to the therapy group, so the Mrs. can have therapy so needed to recover the use of the arm she has had to have a total replacement of the shoulder of and almost 2 trios a week to get the daughter to the Urgent care or the local chaity hospital for her meds. Too say I am not distressed would be lie to you and to all around you, and my wife is a trained pyschologist and social worker, and I practiced family law for most of my professional life. Life stinks.,

    • Joshua S Sparrow June 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      The VA must get real with us, the VETs of the US and sit down across a table and work out a system of conferenced and agreeing on a workable settlement instead of making work which provide no solutions and adds weeks, months and years to an overloaded calendar and hurting each and everyone of us who went to war voluuntarily for all of those who want to change our government and take food out of the mouths of the poor. The VA is providing a manure pile for us to wallow in while they have confernces, meetings, events, training and so on that do not a souix for the lot of us waiting to be helped that we earned 40, 50, 60 and in some cases 70 years ago. It is neither fair nor reasonable, nor equitable they we are treated and the VA gets bigger. For what? I have not a clue!

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