Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a very common mental health condition brought on by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic or terrifying event. The Mayo Clinic estimates that more than three million Americans are diagnosed with PTSD every year. PTSD is especially prevalent among veterans, who are exposed to a number of these traumatic experiences while serving in the military. Estimates vary widely on exactly how many veterans are living with PTSD, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that approximately 10 to 15 out of every 100 veterans will develop PTSD at some point following their military service.

Doctors and psychiatrists categorize the symptoms of PTSD in four general groups: intrusive memories, avoidance behaviors, negative changes in thought and mood, and emotional reactions. These symptoms can take a significant toll on one’s mental health and can even negatively affect one’s professional or social life. Symptoms of PTSD are tricky to characterize, because the amount of time it takes for them to manifest varies widely. One individual might show signs of PTSD three months after experiencing a traumatic event — and another individual might not display these symptoms until several years after the event. Additionally, the intensity of these symptoms may change or vary over time. If you think you or someone you know is showing symptoms of PTSD, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible, to help prevent the symptoms from worsening.

There is no outright cure for PTSD, but with treatment, patients can regain control over their lives. Treatment almost always consists of psychotherapy, such as cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and regularly meeting with a psychiatrist or counselor. In some cases, medications can be used along with psychotherapy to help alleviate the effects of PTSD. Every PTSD patient’s needs are unique, so it is up to your doctor to prescribe a form of treatment that is right for you.

Veterans diagnosed with PTSD may qualify to receive benefits and compensation from the VA. In 2010, new regulations passed that make it easier for veterans to file a disability claim and receive PTSD compensation. These regulations no longer require veterans to provide evidence that the traumatic event that caused their PTSD took place. If you choose to file a disability claim with the VA, you will be assigned a percentage that rates the severity of your illness. This percentage reflects how severe your symptoms are and how much they impact your ability to work and maintain a social life. For example, someone with a 10% disability rating faces only mild PTSD symptoms that can be effectively controlled with medication. When seeking compensation for PTSD, many veterans benefit from a veterans lawyer who has expertise in the VA’s compensation system.