Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

You may have heard of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the news or from friends and family, and wondered what it is, or whether you or someone you know has it.

After a trauma or life-threatening event – such as an experience in combat – it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of the event, increased jumpiness, or trouble sleeping. These responses are often referred to as post-traumatic stress (PTS). For many people, these responses diminish with time, but for others they may continue causing problems with daily life and develop into a chronic psychological condition called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There are four types of symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). Service Members who have experienced a stressful or traumatic event often “re-experience” those events in their mind. This occurs when your mind tries to rationalize the event, which could also cause upsetting thoughts or dreams. Reminders of these events can be initiated by people, places, sounds or even smells. These reminders are called “triggers.”
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. Avoiding these triggers all-together is a natural way to lessen the memories. You might feel the need to sacrifice a normal life style, like watching the news or going out in large crowds, just to avoid thoughts, feelings or sensations that could be associated with the traumatic event.
  3. Having more negative beliefs and feelings. Changes in thoughts and mood may occur or worsen following a traumatic event.  You may blame yourself or feel guilty for having these thoughts.  You may detach yourself from others or lose interest in doing activities.  Like avoidance, negative thoughts and moods can worsen if they are not actively challenged and countered.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may feel a high level of physical tension and alertness all the time, which is sometimes called a “hyper-arousal reaction.”  When a serious life- threatening event occurs, humans are hard-wired to be “on-guard” until the threat is over.  You may have trouble falling or staying asleep, feel irritable or angry, have trouble concentrating, or feel like you are always on guard.  If the threat is prolonged, like during deployment, it can be hard for service members to return to a calm state when they return home.  Practice some simple techniques or utilize some simple tools to help your body return to a normal, less tense state.  Sometimes hyper-arousal reactions include impulsive or self-destructive behaviors.  When these behaviors occur, it’s important to seek out help.

How do you know if you have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? When should you consider getting help from a health care professional? If you’re concerned about experiences you’ve been having, consider taking the self-assessment for PTSD.  It’s anonymous, and provides results, recommendations for next steps including self-help materials, and other resources.

For more questions or answers about PTSD, please visit the VA National Center for PTSD website.


Try a Self Assessment

Welcome to the Post-Truamatic Stress Assessment

Completing this questionnaire should take about five minutes. When you've completed the assessment, your results will be returned along with some resources you're sure to find helpful.

Because your privacy is of utmost importance, we do not collect any personal health information (PHI). For more information about the use of PHI and your personal privacy, please visit the Defense Privacy, Civil Liberties, and Transparency Division of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Important Note

While this tool can help you determine if you need additional help, only a health care professional can provide an accurate diagnosis.

Please check, "I Acknowledge" below to confirm that you have read and understand these statements as they have been presented to you.

Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or images of a stressful military experience from the past?

Repeated, disturbing dreams of a stressful military experience from the past?

Suddenly acting or feeling as if a stressful military experience were happening again (as if you were reliving it)?

Feeling very upset when something reminded you of a stressful military experience from the past?

Having physical reactions (e.g., heart pounding, trouble breathing, or sweating) when something reminded you of a stressful military experience from the past?

Avoiding thinking about or talking about a stressful military experience from the past or avoid having feelings related to it?

Avoid activities or situations because they remind you of a stressful military experience from the past?

Trouble remembering important parts of a stressful military experience from the past?

Loss of interest in things that you used to enjoy?

Feeling distant or cut off from other people?

Feeling emotionally numb or being unable to have loving feelings for those close to you?

Feeling as if your future will somehow be cut short?

Trouble falling or staying asleep?

Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts?

Having difficulty concentrating?

Being "super alert" or watchful on guard?

Feeling jumpy or easily startled?

The result is incomplete

You also may be interested in...

Busting PTSD Myths Infographic


Debunks five common myths about posttraumatic stress disorder and provides resources to help you or a loved one cope with PTSD.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Showing results 1 - 1 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.