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Making the decision to get treatment for PTSD can be difficult. If you have PTSD, you may want to avoid talking about it. But there are treatments that work. Learn why it is important to get help for PTSD and tips to help you deal with concerns about stigma or barriers to care.
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“It's normal to feel like you're not ready to get help for PTSD, or to come up with reasons why now isn't the right time. You may never feel truly ready — but if you're having symptoms, it's better to get treatment now than to wait.”
U.S. Army 2009-2011
Why I Didn't Ask for Help Right Away
Why Is It Important to Seek Care for PTSD?
You deserve treatment. There are PTSD treatments that work. You can learn how to keep PTSD from hurting your relationships or causing problems at work or school. You can enjoy your life. Learn from Veterans who talk about living with PTSD and how treatment turned their lives around: AboutFace.
"Getting better" means different things for different people. In many cases, PTSD treatment can get rid of your symptoms. For other people, symptoms may be less intense or happen less often. After treatment you will have learned skills to better cope with symptoms. People who get treatment improve their quality of life.
Treatment can also help you:
Make sense of traumatic event(s)
Learn skills to better handle negative thoughts and feelings
Reconnect with people you care about
Set goals for activities, like work or school, that you can handle
It's common for people to think health issues will resolve on their own, or that "it's not bad enough" to need treatment. Or you may think it makes sense to wait for the "right time" to get help. These are examples of barriers, or things that might stop you from seeking help for PTSD. Part of PTSD is avoiding thinking about the trauma. So, it makes sense that people with PTSD may want to avoid getting treatment if it means talking about those events. Research points out important reasons to get treatment as soon as you can:
Early treatment is better
Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop symptoms from getting worse in the future and lead to a better quality of life for you.
It's never too late to get PTSD treatment
Treatment can help even if your trauma happened years ago. And treatment for PTSD has gotten much better over the years. If you tried treatment before and you're still having symptoms, it's a good idea to try again or try a different treatment.
PTSD symptoms can affect those you love
PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry, irritated or aggressive. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your relationships.
PTSD can be related to other health problems
PTSD symptoms can affect physical health problems. For example, a few studies have shown a relationship between PTSD and heart trouble. By getting help for your PTSD, you could also improve your physical health.
What Is Stigma?
Stigma is when you feel judged because of some personal quality or trait. You may feel stigma because of negative things people say about mental health problems. An example of stigma related to PTSD is a belief that people with PTSD are dangerous or unstable, which is not true.
You may try to hide problems or avoid seeking care because of stigma. You may start to feel that you deserve to be treated badly because of your symptoms. If you have PTSD, you are not alone. Mental health concerns are just as common as physical health concerns. The best thing you can do for yourself is to take control and get help.
How Is PTSD Different for Service Members or Veterans?
When you are in the military, there are other things that may get in the way of seeking help. Military members may worry that talking about PTSD with doctors, other service members, or commanding officers will hurt their career. You may think if people in your unit learn you have PTSD, they will see you as weak, or not trust you to be able to protect them. Or you may feel that your medical records will be opened for other people to see.
Being afraid that seeking treatment will damage your career leads you to avoid getting help at a time when you need it most. Many don't get help until their return from deployment, or when their family tells them there is a problem. But you don't have to wait.
You may think that avoiding your PTSD is critical to keeping your job. If your PTSD symptoms are getting in the way of doing your duties, it is better to deal with them before they hurt your military career or other aspects of your life. Rather than creating a problem, PTSD treatment helps you solve problems.
How Can I Get the Help I Deserve?
If you learn about PTSD treatments, find social support, and get started, you can feel more in control. Here are some steps you can take and resources to get help for PTSD: