What is PTSD?

By Ben Navratil
PTSD Awareness Month USAA Community.png

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition resulting from any traumatic experience. PTSD can cause debilitating mental and physical health problems. It can destroy lives, break up families, and even lead to serious harm or death in those affected. Left untreated, PTSD can be devastating, but with proper care and treatment, those with the condition can go on to live happy, normal, healthy lives.


June is national PTSD Awareness Month, but the condition can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time. If you think you or a loved one has it, please don’t hesitate to get help.


It’s normal to feel on edge, have flashbacks or have difficulty sleeping following a traumatic event. However, if those conditions persist beyond a few months after the trauma, a person may have PTSD and should seek help as soon as possible.


Symptoms of PTSD can vary, but some generalized ones include:


  • Intrusive memories or constantly reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares.
  • Avoiding situations that may bring back memories of the event.
  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings, for example avoiding loved ones or feeling everyone is out to get you.
  • Feeling jittery or irritable more often, for example having trouble sleeping or concentrating.
  • For more details on possible PTSD symptoms, please refer to the Veteran Administration’s National Center for PTSD.

Who can get PTSD?

There is a myth that only combat vets who’ve survived harrowing combat get PTSD, but this is false. Trauma can occur to anyone, and anyone can develop PTSD. According to the VA, six out of 10 men, and five out of 10 women will experience some type of trauma throughout their life. Trauma can be anything from a car accident, surviving a natural disaster, sexual assault or harassment or experience in combat. There is no shame in having difficulty overcoming a traumatic experience. In fact it’s a sign of courage to reach out and ask for help.


What can I do?Veteran Crisis LIne.jpgIf you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 immediately, go to your local emergency room, or call the National Suicide hotline at 800-273-8255. Veterans can then press 1 to be redirected to the Veterans Crisis Line. Find more information or chat online with a counselor at the Veterans Crisis Line website.


In a non-emergency situation, you can reach out to your family physician or call a help line like Vets4Warriors at 855-838-8255. There are many options for getting help, the most important step to getting help is just reaching out! With proper treatment, those suffering from PTSD can go on to live normal, healthy and happy lives with their families and loved ones.


Who can help?

One of USAA’s signature causes is supporting veterans, family members and caregivers. For this reason, USAA is proud to sponsor several nonprofits dedicated to promoting well-being, healing and support systems to those affected by PTSD. These organizations provide direct support and care to affected service members and their families.


Vets4Warriors offers confidential peer support, while Cohen Veterans Network provides high-quality, accessible and military culturally competent mental health services. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s  STRONG STAR Training Initiative trains mental health clinicians across the country to provide supportive, experience-based care to veterans, service members and  family members with PTSD.


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About the Author:  Ben Navratil has served in the Army for 16 years and is the 2020-21 US Army Training with Industry Fellow at USAA.