Mobile App Helps Veterans with PTSD

The wounds of war are often invisible. For example, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects a significant number of Veterans and can last for decades after a trauma. Unfortunately, PTSD is not suffered alone or without consequence. Work and social functioning are frequently impacted, leaving Veterans and their families with challenges that go far beyond the disturbing flashbacks and memories often depicted in movies.

The good news is that there are treatments for PTSD that actually work and are offered across VA and DoD treatment facilities. The bad news is that no matter how much we reach out to offer Veterans these effective treatments, some will never seek care. The reasons for this vary, but foremost among these is that PTSD is characterized by extreme avoidance. Many Veterans also have logistical problems getting to treatment because of their location, transportation options, work schedules, etc. Others fear stigma (being shamed or discriminated against) of having a PTSD diagnosis and receiving treatment.

Even for those Veterans who are able to overcome these barriers and enter treatment, there are many moments between therapeutic appointments when managing stress can be challenging.

Teams at VA’s National Center for PTSD and DoD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology have collaborated to create a mobile phone application (app) to help Veterans and Service Members who have, or may have PTSD. The app, PTSD Coach, provides users with education about PTSD, information about professional care, a self-assessment for PTSD, opportunities to find support, and tools that can help with managing the stresses of daily life with PTSD. Tools are based on evidence-based PTSD treatment and range from relaxation skills and positive self-talk to anger management and other common self-help strategies. Users can customize tools based on their preferences and can integrate their own contacts, photos, and music.

Most people who carry smart phones have them within reach and on all the time. The goal of this new app is to take education, skills training, and support to Veterans wherever they are, whenever they need it. Plus, Veterans who are concerned about stigma can use the tool in complete anonymity.

It is hoped that this app provides Veterans with PTSD a new way to build the skills needed to improve life for themselves and their families. For Veterans in treatment already, PTSD Coach can help with coping between sessions. For Veterans not yet in treatment, PTSD Coach provides tools for managing stress and helps them to understand their difficulties better and learn more about PTSD treatment.

PTSD Coach can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store on iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. It will also be available for Android phones later this Spring. More apps will also be rolled out soon, including the PTSD Family Coach for family members of Veterans with PTSD. For more information on this app, please see the National Center for PTSD website.

Julia Hoffman is a Clinical Psychologist with VA’s National Center for PTSD.

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52 Comments to “Mobile App Helps Veterans with PTSD”

  1. downloading it right now! Will come back for more insight.

  2. curtis says:

    don’t forget windows mobile. would be nice for WM 6.5 users.

  3. MJ says:

    A major plus for Veterans… I have been recently diagnosed with PTSD due to my service in the first Gulf War; I still have two additional claims appeals filed with the VARO concerning other stressor and mental type disorders. Due to financial difficulties I am unable to own a cell phone, but I can see how the apps could be very helpful for others as well as becoming a helpful guide for me; if and when I am able to live life with my ailments and challenges that I exist with.

  4. Ryan says:

    How about the android market! hook us up too!

  5. Downloading now. Thanks. Will report back.

  6. carriv says:

    What about blackberrys? I think I’ll wait until it comes out on blackberry app world since I trust that kind of information more on a better more secure platform.

  7. patty says:

    Is it out for Blackberrys yet?

  8. P. Crandall Polk says:

    As my PTSD limits what I can do, I cannot afford the smart phone to down load the app. Nor can I afford the phone plan that adds connectivity so that the smart phone will work.

  9. jim says:

    “Im In” and want Dr. Hoffman at NCPTSD to connect with Dr. Roger Casey NRCHV-VA, Tampa Fl.

    We in the Homeless Veteran fields of outreach, intervention theory know first hand this is a potential. I see every VA outreach partner at shelters who sign homeless in city’s shelters and ER rooms to be able to apply this algorthym with greater success. Its important to reflect on the condtion “Im a homeless veteran BUT THAT is not who I am”, I have many issues PTSD/SUD/et al” our experience in the field reflects as a prime-matrix, colaboration curves. Please do not let this be a SANFU standard-of-care paper flow debate at the research level with a two-year window probable simply because the researcher misspelled a word or two..take a risk..just get it in the fields, in the hands of trained intervention advocates you certify. With PL 111-137 signed in by our President, this Feb. we need to get all emergency physicans & society’s in the loop and EMS will follow as a cascade to consider. Firefighters, law enforcement; EMS para, SAR men & women professionals are vets too and would truly like this application as a driver towards success.

    Reflecting on the homeless shelter engagement theory we wrote evidence-based papers ever so long ago, know, this application has more value in a no wrong doors approach, a “End” vets homeless by establishing a two-way dialog thus greater trust is realized. “He ain’t heavey..hes my brother” as the song reminds us all, weather, homeless, smelly and most important fatigued from hunger/stress we continue too engage outreach-intervention & mentorship as we wrote the O.I.M, of Ohm energy.

    We can engage faster at the “infantry” street-level to our aprox 11,000 current era veterans using shelters and outreach with the cross application in Dr. Casey research via the two 24/7 National call center(s’) with trained staff at both local as one theory we wrote last year suggesting a reduction in “chronic “outcomes as the prime equation driver. r,(ee2)2n. (c) jpw.

    We remote view/sense radiating greater solutions forward with this application and wish you continued fast track on the model for our brothers & sisters caught in the transition loop. Vr, james (jim) white,archivist, National Homeless Veterans Speakers Series, Facebook advocates.

  10. A. Navy says:

    Out of curiosity, how much money did the government and/or the VA spend on the production of the app? I do hope it helps those with PTSD, but I would rather see money spent on training people to help those with PTSD.

    • Jon says:

      You have a point, but when there are groups such as IAVA complaining that the VA is not making use of social media and technology, this is how they respond. I have not seen the app, and don’t intend to, but kudos to the VA for at least attempting. Time will tell if this has been a success or not, but the initiative is appreciated.

    • Van says:

      I don’t know how much was spent, but my understanding is that part of the purpose behind the production of this and related apps is to provide a PTSD reference for clinicians and family. Also the fact that the VA and DoD were able to collaborate on this is very encouraging.

  11. Norman Pickett says:

    I was first diagnosed with PTSD in 1977. I have been through several different VA treatment programs that at the time seemed to be working but then something happened and the treatments failed to provide long lasting relief usually due, I think, to program changes within the VA or personnel turnover. I finally met a veteran doctor on the outside who seemed to better understand my issues and of course he does not change personnel or programs. He hooked my up with the pshychdog.org folks and I finally got a service dog that has made more of a difference in my relief than all the past programs I ever had plus I was able to get off all my medications which seemed to only cause massive weight gain. I am very happy now and strive to find ways to pass on to others what may be a solution for them. I also support the addition of this type treatment by the VA and support for my dog via their program for other service animals. I can only hope and pray the VA adopts this magnificent and very effective treatment for PTSD suffers.

    • ed says:

      Please explain: how the hell were you dx’d with PTSD in 1977, when their was NO CONDITION assigned that term/diagnosis until it first appeared in the DSM for psychiatry until the early 80′s???
      I’m not denying that you suffered from that condition, but it certainly wasn’t referred to as PTSD in 1977… shell shock” or “battle fatigue” maybe… or, as a “generalized anxiety/panic condition”; but NOT PTSD. And, no such condition was ‘recognized’ nor ‘qualified’ for compensation as a ‘service-connected disability’ to my knowledge.
      As a Vietnam Era Vet, having suffered from every symptom of PTSD beginning within 2 weeks following my return and HD from military service, I self-medicated for 2 decades before seeking psychiatric help, hoping to avert what would have been my 3rd suicide attempt. Never encouraged to seek any firm of help from the VA System unless destitute in those years, I went to a psych in the ‘private sector’ for years… by that time, not recognizing any association of ‘my demons’ with my military experience(s).
      Too late now but, ‘in short’… after being told my 1st claim ‘had been lost’ after a 3-yr wait and then re-filing, I was ‘awarded’ with a ‘NSC-Pension’ in 2006. $985/mo, reduced ‘dollar-for-dollar’ by ANY other income I may receive! MY EXPERIENCE: THE SYSTEM SUCKS ASS!

      • william passero says:

        i also was a vietnam marine 67-68 quang nam and i returned home to only lose all abilty to live among my family ,friends,i decided to move to another state homeless for years alone and now i blame myself for not noing what the problem,i thought i was just bad,until i met a doctor who could tell me what had happen to me and help me with the va and i wish that every vet could find that same person i still feel guilty but i also blame the man at the top for not trying harder to help us at the bottom,but i learned one main thing we came back ,and alot of are friends didnt,and what ever life is ahead is a god sent,amen

  12. Steve says:

    Just got a windows phone. I’d love to try it out.

  13. Deborah Cox says:

    I think the Government needs to have some kind of help for CHAMPVA Veteran’s wife’s to be added some type of DENTAL program. Without teet you get sick, can’t eat cause’s heart problems. There is no Dental at all for wife’s of fallen victims that have spouse’s who are 100% disabled. It is time to change things. Also widow’s of WWII. I think widow’s left from WWI or WWII should get some percentage for there spouses service a a set aside pension to help them alone. My Dad died before he was qualified and my Mom was left with no pension. Then when I tried to get her her burial rights etc she was sick and died before she got it after I worked on it for a long time over 3 yrs. This slow time period was ridiculous and I feel I should have got what they both lost. Now my husband is 100% disabled from VIETNAM.. He was told to hide his uniform on the plane to take off cause protesters would be fussing at the arrival and when he went back to his College in LaGrange he was spit on and called you one of those Vietnam Soldiers aren’t you . Never a Parade only a hug from ONE MAN GOV LESTER MADDOX of Atlanta Ga. The debate??? MILLIONS died. and today we still have to prove our Veterans to receive there Pension and the last two years not even a RAISE and the GAS keeps going up to 5.00 and there goes what they fought for. What would we do without GOD.. HE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO IS ALWAYS THERE NO MATTER WHAT and they take away Prayers from School but the first time a child dies they have Candle light Services and STAND FIRM IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD AND CRY OUT TO GOD. GOD BLESS AMERICA DAD TO YOU IN HEAVEN AND MY MOM PVT OLIN W FREEMAN WWII 82ND AIRBOURNE AND MY HUSBAND WILLIAM LEWIS COX SP4 ARMY VIETNAM WELL DONE JOB AND REWARD WILL BE ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN . LOVE A PROUD DAUGHTER AND WIFE I AM DEBORAH M COX 540 Robin Rd Covington GA 30016

  14. james says:

    Outstanding!….the use of technology in such a manner seems quite ideal…all the more reason for battery life to be imporved upon multifold….looking forward to the ‘droid release…infinite thanks to the heads that brought this to fruition, continued success and be well….

  15. Mary says:

    Well this work for women who have PTSD as a result of MST? And I don’t have a cell phone so where can I get this info?????

  16. SH Phillips says:

    Okay, admittedly a phone is more convenient, but why isn’t this available online for PC users? If it is, there’s no obvious link to it here or on the links provided in the article.

    Also, Android has a larger smart-phone market-share than Apple OS, and all major cell companies (and most small ones) offer Android phones instead of just one. So why pick iOS to launch this app?

    And you know what? After about a decade of promises I still can’t access my VA records online. Heck, I can’t even get a digital copy of them even though the VA uses digital exclusively in the clinics at my VAMC.

  17. Diane says:

    Sounds great; but what about my husband and/or other Vietnam Vets w/PTSD that aren’t as tech savvy as the younger vets??? Hell, they’re – the Vet Center in PA are removing counselers with PTSD groups and the vets don’t have anyone to hold the group sessions!!! Maybe this is where the money went since the vet centers leaders are being “Left go”. Yea! progress!!!How about better items for the boys on the front line?? Ladies,too!! My bad!

  18. M.A.Jones, Veteran, US Army says:

    I appreciate the efforts to use technology in support of our veterans and the intent of this collaboration is really a good thing but it is short sighted. The application should be on other cell phone operating systems because it would reach more veterans and their family members who are living with PTSD. Please make this application available on major cell phone companies to include, Sprint, ALLTEL, Boost Mobile, Cricket, Metro PCS, T-Mobile, US Cellular, TracFone etc.

    Thanks!

  19. Charles Kramer says:

    I think this application and others is wonderful with one exception, not everyone uses an IPHONE. I am glad it is free but I use a blackberry and this app does not allow me to take advantage of the tool for my immediate needs.

  20. Marilyn says:

    Has anyone downloaded this yet? How well does it work? Does anyone have feedback?

  21. Mark says:

    How about an application to help Veterans locate the nearest facility?

    The Dept. of Health and Human Services has one (http://www.hrsa.gov/about/mobile/) and I think it would be beneficial to our Veterans as well!

  22. Mark Gennaro says:

    Yes, let’s give veterans more opportunities to convince themselves that they’re sick.

    The best cure for PTSD is to work or go to school; i.e become reintegrated back into society.

    • SH Phillips says:

      What makes you think that veteran’s with PTSD don’t work and go to school?

      I meet dirt bags every week pretending to have combat-PTSD that never even wore a uniform. How is an ignoramus going to know if the person claiming to have PTSD actually does have a V.A. rating for PTSD?

      PTSD is very real and can be very debilitating, but the sooner it is treated the better the chance that its impact can be minimal.

      The last thing we need is a bunch of jerks convincing kids they’re free-loaders if they ask for help. They’re lives become measurably worse and the cost of healthcare becomes increasingly long-term and expensive.

      By the way, I don’t have PTSD.

    • Carlos says:

      MARK, apparently you’re not a Veteran, as for your refference to “veterans”, and obviously have no dealings with PTSD, since YOUR solution is work or school. We the VETERANS came home from school (Military) and work (WAR) so that YOU can have the FREEDOM to have a job or go to school or whatever it is that you do. We have to live the rest of our lives with all the thoughts imprinted in our minds of things you would probably never and hopefully never will have to endure. Trying to survive and trying to make sure that those soldiers in your charge return home to their loved ones, i.e. wife, husband, mother, father, sons or daughters, meanwhile wondering if you yourself will ever see your own spouse and children or will they see a box with your name on it, if they’re lucky. PTSD is real whether you like it or not, so if all We the Veterans have is an App. to help us cope with our situation at hand then pray that you don’t end up next to a Veteran having a moment without his PTSD App. staring at YOU wanting to reintergrate himself into your society.

    • Jim says:

      Mr. Gennaro,

      One of the most difficult things to accomplish with PTSD is to “convince” the veteran they need help. To them, they don’t have a problem, everyone else does.

      So they don’t get treatment, they ignore the symptoms, and it all blows up at some point, hurting themselves, family, friends, and jobs.

      The high percentage of veterans do not want to burden others, flash about their medals, or brag about where they’ve been or what they try so hard to forget.

      You, sir, need to sit in on a PTSD group and “experience” the emotions you do not have.

    • Dean says:

      Mark how do you sleep at night?

  23. Christine says:

    How about for Android phones, as this would be helpful for my husband.

  24. I am a volunteer retiree and benefits counsellor (volunteer) at Naaval Station GL. I work with PTSD among the returnee’s from the Middle east. I have a PTSD issue my self and am successfully coping with it by avoiding certain issues. I help these young people as well as older vets by relating issues. I find hhaving a DOG present wilst working with female military to be a valuable resource..They will oftn hold the dog, talk to the dog and that way they are conveing the issues to me. I reccomend man to speak with a proffessional counsellor here at FFSO. My Masters is in Education (continuing adult Ed and rehasb) but often this can cross over. I would like to mention though a obsrvation. IF we can get them paid and seen immediately we can reduce the effectsa of the PTSD. Why? By tsaking them from a situation they could not control to a situation where they can assist their families whilst undergoing therapy or counselling.

  25. Nancy says:

    This phone app may be useful for young combat vets with PTSD juts beginnng to experience uncontrolled public anger outbursts and loud noise startles. Fortunately for them, the VHA tells new vets this is abnormal and they have medical treatment protocols. Unfortunately, WWII, Korean, and Vietnam vets had no such treatments other than institutionization and doping drugs.

    Let’s hope the VHA quickly adopts Dr. Eugene Lipov’s SGB treatment that stops all PTSD symptoms with a 10-minute nerve block treatment. This treatment has been used and verified by VA Doctors; costs less than $1,000; immediately ends PTSD symptoms and the need to take psychotropic drugs, and allows vets to go on with their lives. If you are a young vet with PTSD try it. It’s too late for old vets with a lifetime of PTSD.

    See http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100503/SGB-procedure-holds-potential-promise-for-PTSD-treatment.aspx

  26. Julie says:

    Do you have to be a veteran? Or is there something for civilians with PTSD?

  27. Brianca Delaney says:

    Thank you! My father was a veteran and I have some of the same issues that he faced. I will be so glad to have this tool.

  28. Lisa says:

    Mark,
    I am Carlos’ wife and I am appauled that you would be so ignorant. You obviously have no dealings with PTSD or know anyone who suffers from it!!! My husband left to fight for your freedom when I had just given birth to our youngest son. He left not knowing when, if or how he was coming back home to us. When he did return, I could tell immediately that he was not the same person that left. He refused to get treatment and went right back to work even when he got out of the military. He believed there was a stigma attached to having PTSD so he ignored it while it was destroying our family. His anger outburst towards me and our small children. His inability to go out in public w/o being paranoid. He wouldn’t even take our children to the park bc he was afraid that someone would try and kill him. He tried working for 15 years after he came back. It was difficult for him to keep a job and even more difficult to deal with his illness. I begged him for years to get help and he wouldn’t. He almost hit a pregnant woman at work in a PTSD episode and lost his job. Had he had treatment that would not have happened. Finally, after years of suffering with PTSD he finally went to get help and with counseling and medication he has improved greatly. Due to other physical issues he came back with he is on disability. How dare you undermine what these men and women have been through. How dare you cheapen what they sacrificed their lives for. Maybe you should direct your distane to the millions of people that have never given of themselves at all and sit back and receive everything free off of our government. The get their rent paid for, they get their food for free, they get free health care and anything else they can suck the government dry of. Why don’t you sir, volunteer to put your life on the line for others!! But, something tells me you are too selfish of a person to do such an honorable thing. May you never know what these men and women have endured. May your children never know either.

  29. Michael Sanchez says:

    My son went to VA in Jan with head fracture found by VA CAT scan, now in April my son a 2 combat tour vet in the reserves, has had increasing migrane headaches. He went in to the VA and they gave him vicodin last week, the and started losing vision the headaches got worse and he went in Saturday they just gave him more drugs. We kept asking for an MRI which whould show
    tissue damage (CAT shows bone damage) the VA refused. Last night the symptoms got worse and we took him in again, the VA was rude and would not see him right away, so he went home, as the seats are very uncomfortable, and their is nowhere except the cold hard floor to rest. Mean while the VA propraganda is playing on a large screen about how great the service to our veterans is, and one cannot even enjoy TV! When we were there a History Easter program about the Accension of Christ was on, and pretty much everyone was watching it, and right at the Accension a employee changes the channel, everyone had to complain before he changed it back! I have called the Nurse 24 hour three times, the Administrator on Duty is not on Duty, and the patient advocate is a recording. Now my son is throwing up and his vision is much worse so I post this out of frustration, as any third rate emergeny room would recogize head trama symptoms, and admit him for observation and futher treatment. The VA didn’t even give him a blood test.

  30. Amy McA says:

    Michael Sanchez – get your son to an emergency room.
    Vomitting and blurred vision in addition to a skull fracture is very serious and an emergency.

    http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/benefits_chap01.asp
    Emergency Medical Care in U.S. Non-VA Facilities
    In the case of medical emergencies, VA may reimburse or pay for emergency non-VA medical care not previously authorized that is provided to certain eligible Veterans when VA or other federal facilities are not feasibly available. This benefit may be dependent upon other conditions, such as notification to VA, the nature of treatment sought, the status of the Veteran, the presence of other health care insurance, and third party liability. Because there are different regulatory requirements that may affect VA payment and Veteran liability for the cost of care, it is very important that the nearest VA medical facility to where emergency services are furnished be notified as soon as possible after emergency treatment is sought. If emergency inpatient services are required, VA will assist in transferring the Veteran to a Department facility, if available. Claim timely filing limitations apply. For additional information, contact the nearest VA medical facility. Please note that reimbursement criteria for Veterans living or traveling outside the United States fall under VA’s Foreign Medical Program (FMP), and differ from the criteria for payment of emergency treatment received in the United States. Please refer to the section below VA’s Foreign Medical Program.

    For VA Health locations http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/division_flsh.asp?dnum=1

  31. Dean says:

    Norman; I have PTSD and have noticed that I am changing slowly. I rescued a dog from Denver last month after losing my Dog about 4 years ago. I thought I would not go through the pain again but my new dog has brought me out of my shell and I am doing more now. My Pal (River) found at the river in Denver is a great help. He knows when I am down better than I know myself. I think I luckily found something for my PTSD that really works. Thank God and River for a little calm in my life!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Don says:

    Wow, PTSD that works from a cell phone…I have been seeing Psychiatrists and Doctors for years without much help for my PTSD. Does the VA pay for the phone? what about paying for the download? or is the cost just offset in or retirement….

  33. Watch Movies says:

    I think after the release of Iphone 4 Blackberry is certainly down in the market and same happen with others as well.

  34. Wow, PTSD that works from a cell phone…I have been seeing Psychiatrists and Doctors for years without much help for my PTSD. Does the VA pay for the phone? what about paying for the download? or is the cost just offset in or retirement….

  35. Any help is good for these guys my old neighbour still suffers from the nightmares.
    ipods

  36. john says:

    I appreciate your comments about veterans on this website. I am an Afghanistan War veteran. I started a simliar blog called “The Veterans Guide.”

    You can visit it here and perhaps guest post on it from time to time.

    Veteran’s Guide to PTSD and Benefits