Last month I saw a segment on the news about PTSD Coach, an application (app) for smart phones and other devices intended to help with the education and self-management of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD Coach was created by VA’s National Center for PTSD and DoD’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology specifically for veterans and other military service members, however most of the tools the app provides are not directed specifically at combat related PTSD.
My therapist and I have been working on tools for managing my PTSD symptoms, so I thought I would check PTSD Coach out.
The home page has four menus to select from, Learn, Self Assessment, Manage Symptoms, and Find Support.
After exploring the Self Assessment portion I was not surprised to be informed that based on my responses, it appears I have severe PTSD and I should seek medical treatment beyond this app if I have not already (yes PTSD coach, I have done so, but thank you). This portion of the app keeps a record of where your self assessment lands, so that over time (the app suggests taking the assessment once a month) one will hopefully begin to see some progress in the management of PTSD symptoms.
The Learn portion contains a series of questions, like a “frequently asked questions” section for PTSD, including:
- Who develops PTSD?
- How long does PTSD last?
- Do I have PTSD?
- What problems are associated with PTSD?
- Do I need professional help?
- What if I am embarrassed about seeking help?
- What does a psychologist do?
- What does a psychiatrist do?
and so on. I found this chapter helpful up until it begins suggesting contacting my local Veteran’s Affairs office for support (unfortunately that is where the “geared toward veterans” portion begins).
For me the real gem lies within the Manage Symptoms piece. This button leads to another menu asking what the problem is, giving 8 options to allow the user to identify which PTSD symptom is currently causing the problem. The choices are reminded of trauma, avoiding triggers, disconnected from people, disconnected from reality, sad/hopeless, worried/anxious, angry, and unable to sleep.
From there the user is directed to the distress meter, where one rates the amount of current distress on a scale from 1-10.
Next, the app makes suggestions on how to help yourself manage your symptoms. Upon downloading you are asked to add soothing or funny pictures, music, or phone numbers of people you can contact for support. PTSD Coach draws on these, as well as guided meditation exercises, breathing techniques, and ideas for harmless distractions.
You can skip a suggestion if you find it isn’t helpful (which I tend to do a lot, many of the suggestions I’ve already tried by the time I decide to use this app) and you can give any suggestion a thumbs up or down (so it will be suggested more or less frequently).
At the end of the exercise you are asked again to rate your level of distress, and more often than not I find myself rating my distress lower the second time around.
The last button on the home page is Find Support. This one allows you to seek immediate support (either by calling a person in your support network, a crisis line, or 911) or seek professional care. Again, the professional care portion is geared toward Veterans so some of the suggestions may not apply if you are not a military service member.
Honestly, I wish this app was a little more well rounded (with less focus on Veterans), but I can totally understand why this was created specifically with them in mind. Regardless, PTSD Coach has some great tools and it is something I can rely on when I am in situations where I begin to panic or get frustrated.
Overall, if you are looking for a new way to help manage your PTSD symptoms, I would suggest checking PTSD Coach out!