Managing PTSD While You Age

It’s never too late to heal, no matter your age

A Veteran talking to a loved one about their PTSDOver the years it has been known as shell shock, combat fatigue, or battle fatigue. Today, we say posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Although PTSD is often linked with combat, not all PTSD is combat-related. Any experience that threatens your life or someone else’s can cause PTSD.

Learn about treatment options for dealing with PTSD as you get older.

How aging affects PTSD

Some changes that come with normal aging may make you feel more vulnerable. This can make your PTSD symptoms more noticeable. Aging can cause symptoms to come back after many years or even occur for the first time. Here are some examples of how aging can affect PTSD:

  • Self-reflection: Looking back at your life, memories you had forgotten or purposefully bottled up may return.

  • Retirement: With more time on your hands, unpleasant memories may surface more.

  • Loss: The death of a spouse, partner, or friend can make you feel alone and unsafe, leaving you vulnerable to PTSD.

  • Physical ability: You may lose strength, making you feel like you can’t protect yourself.

  • Change in the environment: Spending time in unfamiliar places, like moving to a new home or staying at a hotel, can upend your daily routine and make you feel less safe.

  • More screen time: You may be watching more TV. The news and war scenes may cause you to relive memories.

  • Medical problems: Hospital stays, chronic illness, and end-of-life issues can make you feel weaker and more fearful. PTSD symptoms may increase.

Help at any age

Remember: it’s never too late to heal. Treatment is for people of all ages. If you have symptoms of PTSD, don’t wait to ask for help. Many treatments are proven to work, and VA offers almost 200 programs, such as:

  • 1-to-1 mental health assessment and testing to figure out if you have PTSD

  • Medicine that’s proven to work for treating PTSD

  • 1-to-1 psychotherapy (also called talk therapy), which includes Cognitive Processing Therapy

  • 1-to-1 family therapy

  • Group therapy for particular trauma-related issues, like anger or stress management, or combat support

  • Group therapy for those who served in certain combat zones or have been through similar traumas

Connect with your care

My HealtheVet helps Veterans with PTSD manage their health care and access their records. Veterans can also communicate with therapists, doctors, and other members of the health care team. If you have PTSD symptoms, it’s time to ask for help. With a Premium account, you can follow up with your doctor about your medications or treatment using Secure Messaging (sign in required).

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