Getting Help for PTSDPTSD helplines are widely available and provide free resources for people struggling with related issues such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, anger, substance abuse, and others.1
PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—is a condition that develops when someone is exposed to a shocking, dangerous, or life-threatening event.2 People experiencing persistent and recurring symptoms can benefit from the guidance provided by a hotline or mental health professional. However, if you or a loved one is in danger of harming yourself or someone else, please call 911 immediately.
Should I Call a PTSD Helpline?
It can be difficult to pick up the phone and ask for help, but calling a PTSD hotline number is a free and easy way to speak with someone who is knowledgeable about PTSD and the treatment options available.
All PTSD hotlines are private and confidential; specialists are trained professionals who can offer guidance and a sympathetic ear. Hotlines are also open to friends and loved ones seeking information and treatment options for someone close to them.
Calling a PTSD crisis hotline can help you:
- Get general information about PTSD.
- Talk to someone who understands what you or your loved one is going through.
- Get help confidentially and anonymously.
- Find a counselor or therapist specializing in PTSD and/or trauma.
- Find a mental health treatment and/or substance abuse facility.
- Learn about how PTSD can be treated.
- Find local community PTSD support groups.
- Find resources for military vets or other special populations who suffer high rates of PTSD.
You Are Not Alone
Population surveys show that in the U.S., nearly 4% of men and 10% of women will develop PTSD at some point in their lifetime.4 Although this is only a small portion of people who have gone through a trauma—about 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lifetime—this rate of prevalence accounts for about 8 million adults with PTSD in any given year. 4
About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lifetime—this rate of prevalence accounts for about 8 million adults with PTSD in any given year.
While suffering from PTSD can be an isolating experience, it’s important to know that you are not the only one who feels this way, and there are resources available to help you get back to leading the life you want. PTSD can happen to anyone and is not a sign of weakness. PTSD helplines are a non-judgmental, safe first step in the right direction for receiving treatment.
What Questions Should I Ask?
Calling a PTSD hotline number is a great way to get your questions answered in a confidential manner. Often, people are not fully aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD, nor are they familiar with the best methods of treatment.
If someone develops PTSD because of an ongoing source of trauma such as an abusive relationship, they will need help addressing their mental health issues as well as the traumatic environment contributing to them. A good first step is to call a post-traumatic stress disorder helpline. Other associated issues can include panic disorder, chronic depression, substance abuse, and suicidality.2 The purpose of a PTSD hotline is to provide information and connect you to services.
Here are some questions you may want to write down before calling a PTSD crisis hotline about your condition:
- How do I know if I have PTSD?
- What do I do if I’m having a flashback or recurring nightmare?
- Can PTSD be treated or overcome?
- Do I need medication or therapy?
- What are the symptoms of PTSD?
- What if I have other mental health issues?
- Do I need to go to a special treatment program for PTSD?
- How do I find the best form of treatment for my individual issues?
- How much does PTSD treatment cost? Will my insurance cover it?
- Will I ever feel normal?
- What are the next steps I should take?
Family members and friends can feel helpless and lost trying to find help for a loved one. It also may be hard for the actual person struggling with PTSD to ask for help. Friends and family members are often the catalyst that allows someone to receive the critical help they need. It is important to realize that it may take time, but with treatment, your loved one can recover.2 A post-traumatic stress disorder helpline can help point you in the right direction.
It is important to realize that it may take time, but with treatment, your loved one can recover.
Here are some questions to ask if you are calling about a loved one’s condition:
- What should I do if I think my loved one needs help for their PTSD?
- What resources are available for family members/friends of people with PTSD?
- How do I confront the person about their PTSD and encourage them to seek help?
- What should I do if I think they’re in danger of hurting themselves or someone else?
- What are the symptoms of PTSD?
- What are the triggers for a PTSD episode?
- How do I talk to my loved one about their problem and show my support?
- What if my loved one displays signs of alcohol or drug abuse?
- How do I cope while my loved one is going through this?
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health disorder that people develop after living through or experiencing a traumatic event such as war, natural disaster, rape, abuse, or an accident.1 PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last more than a month and are severe enough to interfere with relationships or work.2
PTSD can occur in mild to moderate levels; each person is uniquely impacted. Signs of PTSD may begin to show soon after the traumatic event, but some people experience a delayed onset of symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of PTSD include:2
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like racing heartbeat or sweating.
- Frightening thoughts.
- Compulsively avoiding places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience.
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event.
- Being easily startled.
- Feeling tense or “on edge.”
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Angry outbursts.
- Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event.
- Negative thoughts about oneself or the world.
- Distorted feelings, like guilt or blame.
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
PTSD symptoms may disrupt a person’s daily routine. People, places, or things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger an episode. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after being attacked by a dog a person may avoid animals or pets altogether.
Children may react to traumatic events differently than adults. Some signs that your child may be experiencing PTSD include:2
- Wetting the bed after being potty-trained.
- Forgetting how to talk or refusing to talk at all.
- Acting out the traumatic event during playtime.
- Clinging on to parents, or the inability to be alone.
What is Trauma?
When PTSD was first identified as a mental health disorder, it was thought that trauma comprised extreme life stressors “outside the range of normal human experience.”5 Since this original diagnosis, however, studies have found that traumatic events are actually quite frequent across age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status.5
Some traumatic situations that commonly trigger PTSD include:2,5
- Living through a natural disaster or war.
- Prolonged physical torture.
- Abuse, rape, or experiencing a threat to your life.
- An unexpected death or loss of a loved one.
- Crime, burglary, or a gunshot accident.
- Vehicular or industrial accidents.
- Being attacked by an animal.
- Seeing another person get severely injured or killed.
- Having little or no support after a traumatic event.
It is natural to have some PTSD symptoms after a dangerous or life-threatening event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that dissipate after a few weeks. Others may endure symptoms that last more than a month and seriously impact their ability to function. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months following the event. The course of the illness varies depending on the individual.
Risk Factors for PTSD
Many people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their life, yet not everyone who does will develop PTSD. In fact, most tend to recover naturally.2 Some people are more susceptible to PTSD, especially those already dealing with mental illness or substance abuse problems.2
Some people are more susceptible to PTSD, especially those already dealing with mental illness or substance abuse problems.
Depression, substance abuse, or an anxiety disorder often accompany PTSD.2 Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol may experience more severe PTSD symptoms, higher rates of other mental health disorders, and are at greater risk for suicide.3 However, research shows that when treatment improves PTSD symptoms, comorbid substance abuse disorder issues also improve.3
Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men, and veterans of war experience higher rates of PTSD than the general population due to their exposure to stress and trauma during combat.4
Free Crisis Hotline Numbers
Hotlines are a free and easy way to get more information and resources on PTSD. They provide confidential guidance and can answer your questions, directing you to the best care. There are several free and confidential national hotlines at your disposal.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
If you experience suicidal thoughts during a PTSD episode and don’t know where to turn, the National Suicide Prevention number can offer guidance and the strength to find help. This number is free and provides 24-hour support for people in distress or crisis, as well as resources for you or your loved ones.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
When you’re ready to seek treatment for your PTSD, SAMHSA’s hotline can help you locate mental health facilities in your area. This free national hotline is available 24/7 and can also direct you to local support groups, community-based organizations, and other mental health resources. You can also visit their online treatment locator.
- Boys Town National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000
PTSD can be especially challenging for children and teenagers, who experience the additional pressures of school, social circles, and developing their own sense of self. The Boys Town hotline is an excellent resource for both adolescents and parents to learn more about coping with PTSD and healing as a family. The free, 24-hour service allows kids to ask questions anonymously via phone, text, chat, or email.
- Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741
If you’re in the grips of a PTSD flashback, talking to a stranger on the phone may be the last thing you want (or are able) to do. Luckily, help for people in crisis is just a text away. This free, 24/7 support service provides access to trained crisis counselors via text message, so you can break out of the PTSD episode and take the next step toward getting help.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Killeen T., Back S., & Brady K. (2015). Implementation of Integrated Therapies for Comorbid Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorders in Community Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. Drug and Alcohol Review, 34; 234–241.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016). How Common is PTSD?
- Keane T. and Barlow D. (2008). A Guide to Assessments That Work. 293–315.