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How and Why Should Healthcare Providers Ask Patients If They Have PTSD?

How and Why Should Healthcare Providers Ask Patients If They Have PTSD?


How and why should healthcare providers ask patients if they have PTSD?

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[Lt. Col. Philip Holcombe] I would say that when a doctor first sees a patient, that should be a routine question, is to simply ask them. Now having said that, we know that there are many people that will be asked, and they will deny having that experience because they may experience shame or embarrassment related to that because, unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to psychological health issues to include post-traumatic stress disorder. So some of the things that they'll want to watch for are—for people who won't necessarily say that they're having problems—is unhealthy methods of coping with post-traumatic stress disorder or complaints of symptoms that may be related to post-traumatic stress disorder, but the patient may not even realize that it is. So, for example, sleep problems. Sleep problems are a frequent occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder. If a patient's coming with sleep problems, it's very important that the doctor ask about what's going on with the sleep problems and listen for the possibility that the person may have mixed feelings about sleeping because who wants to sleep when you're afraid that you're going to have a nightmare about the very trauma that happened or if the patient is complaining about anger or irritability—for the doctor to take some time to do that.

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Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

Lt. Col. Philip Holcombe, PhDLt. Col. Philip Holcombe, PhD, Lt. Col. Philip Holcombe is an Army psychologist who serves as the chief of Clinical Recommendations at the Deployment Health Clinical Center at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

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