Overcoming Barriers to PTSD Care
The decision to get care for PTSD symptoms can be difficult. You are not alone if you feel nervous. It is not uncommon for people with mental health conditions like PTSD to want to avoid talking about it. But getting help for your symptoms is the best thing you can do. PTSD treatments can work.
Why is it important to seek care for PTSD?
There is no need to suffer with PTSD. There are good treatments that can help. You don't need to let PTSD get in the way of your enjoyment of life, hurt your relationships, or cause problems at work or school. 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, but people who get treatment improve their quality of life. In many cases, PTSD treatment can get rid of your symptoms. For some, symptoms may continue after treatment, but you will have learned skills to cope with them better.
Treatment can also help you:
- Make sense of the trauma
- 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
What are barriers to PTSD care?
There are many different 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. But there are other reasons people might not seek care right away. Research points out some examples:
- Believing you will get better on your own
- Problems getting care, like finding a therapist, transportation, or cost
- Not knowing that PTSD treatments work
- Thinking that services are for other people, not you
What Is PTSD Stigma?
Stigma is when you feel judged by other people because of some personal quality or trait. You may feel stigma because of negative things people say about you, or because they treat you differently. An example of stigma related to PTSD is a belief that people with PTSD are dangerous or unstable, which is not true.
Some examples of stigma include:
- Negative labels or stereotypes that assume all people with PTSD are the same
- Discrimination at work, at school, or finding housing because of your symptoms
- Being denied chances to succeed because of a PTSD diagnosis
Because of concerns about stigma, you may try to hide the problem or not admit you need care. You may start to feel that you deserve to be treated badly because of your symptoms. But PTSD is not something to be ashamed of. The best thing you can do for yourself is to take control and get help.
Barriers specific to military context
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 soldiers, 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. But 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. Getting help for PTSD is problem solving.
How can I overcome barriers to PTSD care?
There are always reasons for people to put off seeking help, especially with PTSD. It is hard to find a therapist, hard to get time off from work, and hard to find the money to pay for treatment. Facing your problems can be scary. It is even harder if you don't know what to expect.
But if you learn about PTSD treatments, find social support, and get started in treatment, you can feel more in control. You can't change what others think about PTSD, but you can stop it from getting in your way.
Here are some steps you can take and resources to get help for PTSD:
- Learn about PTSD and treatments. Knowing that treatment helps and your options is important.
- Take the first step and find out where to get help. See the VA's Where to Get Help for PTSD page.
- Talk to someone you trust. Whether you talk to a family member, doctor, chaplain or clergy, or another service member or Veteran, getting support is key to getting better.
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