24/7 PTSD Hotline: When to Call & What to Expect
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop when an individual experiences a life-threatening, shocking, or dangerous event.1 PTSD can result in persistent or recurring symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, anger, anxiety, and substance abuse.1
People struggling with PTSD and its related symptoms can benefit from support and guidance offered by a readily available, confidential, and free hotline. As a first step toward recovery, a PTSD helpline can provide you or your loved one with valuable information and resources, including guidance on available treatment programs for PTSD and drug addiction. However, please call 911 immediately if you or your loved one is at risk of harming yourself or anybody else.
What to Expect From a PTSD Hotline?
Calling a PTSD helpline is a free and simple way to speak with a qualified, knowledgeable, and compassionate professional who can provide you with useful information on PTSD and the available treatment options. Family members and friends looking for treatment information for a loved one can also benefit from free and confidential hotlines.2
If you are wondering what to expect from a call to a PTSD hotline number or not sure where to start, you are not alone. Nevertheless, the admission navigator who picks up the call can help you even if you don’t know what to ask.
In fact, they may ask you some questions themselves in order to evaluate your situation and provide you with the PTSD support you need. For example, they may ask you if you are also struggling with substance abuse and suggest appropriate treatment options if that is the case.
Some questions you may consider asking when you call a PTSD crisis hotline include:3
- How can PTSD be treated?
- Should I visit a psychiatrist?
- What treatment options are available?
- How can I pay for treatment?
- Will I have to stay at the treatment facility?
- Are there treatment programs that can help me with depression, substance abuse, and similar problems co-occurring with PTSD?
- What should I do after calling a helpline?
If you are calling a PTSD hotline for a loved one, the following questions might be useful:
- How can I help a loved one suffering from PTSD?
- How should I talk to a loved one who needs help? Should I confront them directly?
- What do I do if they deny having a problem?
- Are there any programs and support groups for friends and family of individuals with PTSD?
Reasons to Call a PTSD Hotline
Calling a 24-h PTSD and drug addiction hotline can provide you with the following valuable information:2
- General PTSD information
- Help identifying any life-threatening signs
- Confidential and anonymous support
- Help finding therapists and counselors
- Help finding treatment facilities for PTSD and substance abuse
- Help finding local communities and support groups
- Information about the treatment process and methods (inpatient/outpatient treatment, individual counseling, etc.)
- Information about specific treatment modalities (cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT))4
- Support for family members and friends
- Useful resources for first responders, military veterans, and other special populations
Symptoms of PTSD
Individuals who experience a traumatic event may develop a variety of short-term and long-term (chronic) PTSD symptoms. These symptoms tend to begin early on after the traumatic incident (usually within 3 months), although they may also occur years afterward.1
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an individual has to experience symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with their work or relationships and persist longer than a month.1 The course and severity of PTSD can vary. While some individuals can recover within months, others may experience much more persistent symptoms and, in some cases, develop a chronic condition.1
Mood and Cognitive Symptoms
An individual with PTSD can experience several cognition and mood symptoms that may cause them to feel detached or alienated from people close to them. These symptoms can start or get worse after the traumatic event, but aren’t caused by substance use or injury. Some common mood and cognitive symptoms include:1
- Difficulty remembering key details about the traumatic incident.
- Distorted feelings (blame or guilt).
- Having negative thoughts about the world or oneself.
- Feelings of social isolation.
- Losing interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Re-experiencing or intrusive symptoms of PTSD can disrupt the individual’s daily routine. They may either come from the person’s feelings or thoughts or an external trigger. Intrusive symptoms may include:1
- Recurrent intrusive memories of the traumatic incident.
- Reliving the trauma (flashbacks) and experiencing physical symptoms (sweating or racing heart).
- Distressing dreams or nightmares about the event.
Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms
Arousal and reactivity symptoms in individuals with PTSD tend to be constant, as opposed to being triggered by situations and other stimuli that may remind them of the event. These symptoms may cause anger and stress, as well as result in disruption of daily tasks (eating, sleeping, or concentrating). Arousal symptoms may include:1
- Feeling on edge or tense.
- Experiencing anger outbursts.
- Being startled easily.
- Difficulties sleeping.
- Difficulties concentrating.
- Engaging in destructive or risky behavior.
These symptoms can be triggered by reminders of the traumatic incident, potentially causing the individual to change their routine to avoid the triggers. Avoidance symptoms may manifest as:1
- A tendency to stay away from situations, places, or objects that remind them of the trauma.
- A tendency to avoid feelings and thoughts related to the event.
Do I Need Treatment for PTSD and Substance Abuse?
PTSD can often co-occur with substance use disorders. One study has found that 46.4% of persons with PTSD also meet the criteria for an SUD.5Military veterans, in particular, seem to be at even higher risk of comorbid substance use: more than 1 out of 4 veterans with PTSD also have a SUD.6
This is often the case because people may resort to using alcohol or drugs to better cope with the distressing symptoms of PTSD, which may lead to addiction.5 Drugs and alcohol can change the brain’s reward center, impacting the release and absorption of neurotransmitters and increasing the individual’s sense of stimulation, relaxation, and pleasure.7
The triggering of the reward center by serotonin, dopamine, or other neurotransmitters can cause the person to perceive the substance-induced euphoria as positive and result in compulsive use. This, in turn, may lead to the development of physical dependence and tolerance.7
How Treatment Can Help
If you or a loved one experience any of the previous PTSD and SUD symptoms that interfere with daily functioning, it may be a good idea to call a free helpline for PTSD and drug addiction or seek help from a doctor or a mental health professional, either online or in person.
Treatment for co-occurring PTSD and substance abuse can help reduce the severity of the symptoms and increase the chance of lasting recovery.4 In order to provide a person with PTSD and substance use with appropriate care, treatment programs often take an integrated, evidence-based approach to address the unique and complex relationship between the two conditions.4
In particular, prolonged exposure therapy seems to have the most potential for treating PTSD and SUD.4 If the patient has potentially life-threatening or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, medical interventions may also be needed. Overall, an integrated co-occurring treatment seems to be the most promising for encouraging sobriety and helping people get back to productive functioning in their social and professional lives.4 You can get more information about treatment for veterans and other people dealing with PTSD and substance abuse by calling a 24-h PTSD and drug addiction hotline.
Common Fears and Misconceptions While Calling the PTSD/Depression Helpline
It is normal for people to experience suspicion, doubt, or fear at the thought of calling a PTSD hotline.8 This may happen out of fear of discussing their condition, disclosing substance use, and having doubts about:8
- The confidentiality of PTSD and substance abuse treatments.
- The cost of PTSD and substance abuse treatment.
- The quality of services offered by the hotline.
If you are considering calling a PTSD crisis hotline number, remember that such calls are completely confidential, anonymous, free, and available 24/7. The admission navigator who picks up your call will lend you a sympathetic ear, as well as provide valuable information on the available treatment options and payment plans. Nobody will learn about the information disclosed in the call and you won’t be required to commit to treatment right away.
In case of an emergency, such as you or a loved one being at risk of self-harm or harming someone else, call 911 right away or go to the nearest emergency room.
For information and support, you can call the following helpful PTSD hotlines:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline: (800) 662-HELP (4357). This hotline is available 24/7/365. Individuals struggling with mental health and substance use disorders can get treatment information and referrals in both English and Spanish.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 (TALK). This helpline is also available 24/7, 365 days a year. It is toll-free and operated by trained volunteers who can provide support, crisis intervention, and treatment information and referrals for individuals with PTSD and their loved ones.
- Veterans Crisis Line (VA PTSD hotline): (800) 273-8255 (TALK) and press “1”. This is a toll-free PTSD hotline for veterans and their families who need support and information on mental health and substance abuse. Veterans and their loved ones can also send a text message to 838255 to get free and confidential PTSD treatment referrals and support.
- PTSD Foundation of America, Veteran PTSD crisis hotline: (877) 717-PTSD (7873). Tis is a toll-free helpline available 24/7 to veterans seeking information, resources, and treatment referrals.
Rehab for PTSD and Substance Abuse
Calling a free PTSD counseling hotline can be a good first step toward getting appropriate treatment. At Treatment Solutions and American Addiction Centers, we offer confidential and toll-free helpline services for individuals with PTSD and their loved ones. Our trained admission navigators can provide you with compassionate support, discuss different treatment modalities, guide you through the treatment admission procedure, and verify insurance for yourself or a loved one right on the spot. We can also provide you with valuable additional resources as well as refer you to research-based treatment we offer at our centers spread across the U.S.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Individuals with PTSD often suffer from depression. In fact, about half of persons with post-traumatic stress disorder also have comorbid major depressive disorder (MDD).9 To effectively combat both of these conditions, treatment providers often provide integrated programs designed to address the underlying causes of both PTSD and depression. In addition, addiction treatment facilities often offer programs for co-occurring disorders that aim to treat the root causes of PTSD, depression, and substance use.10If you are looking for affordable PTSD and depression treatment for yourself or a loved one, you can get useful information and referrals by calling a toll-free helpline.
- Only a qualified and experienced professional, usually a psychologist or psychiatrist, can diagnose PTSD. To get a diagnosis, an adult must experience the following symptoms for at least a month:1
- At least 1 intrusive or re-experiencing symptom (flashbacks, bad dreams, or distressing thoughts)
- At least 1 avoidance symptom (avoiding triggering thoughts and situations)
- At least 2 arousal/reactivity symptoms (feeling tense, being easily startled, difficulties sleeping and concentrating, anger outbursts, or risky behavior)
- At least 2 cognition/mood symptoms (ongoing negative emotions, memory issues, guilt, blame, loss of interest, or social isolation)
- An individual with PTSD may experience sudden, intrusive flashbacks in which they re-experience traumatic experiences.11 These flashbacks may be accompanied with sensory experiences that create a sense of the event happening in the present moment. The intrusive symptoms of PTSD may range from sudden and fleeting intrusive memories to a debilitating, complete loss of contact with the surrounding environment for a couple of minutes or more.11If you or your loved one experience intrusive flashbacks caused by a traumatic incident, calling a PTSD helpline can provide you with the information you need and refer you to appropriate treatment options.
- When you dial a free PTSD helpline, your call will be picked up by an educated and compassionate admission navigator. While you will not be required to commit to any kind of treatment, a hotline operator can point you toward evidence-based treatment programs delivered by qualified professionals. They will evaluate your current situation and recommend a treatment program that can address any underlying conditions you may be dealing with, such as drug addiction or depression.
At Treatment Solutions, we can provide you or your loved one with information on research-based treatment for co-occurring PTSD and substance abuse. We have a confidential, toll-free hotline number that you can call to receive immediate support and learn more about our facilities. In addition, we also offer the following helpline services:
1. National Institute of Mental Health. (2020). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2020). Get Help.
3. The American Psychiatric Association (2021). Help With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
4. Watkins, L. E., Sprang, K. R., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2018). Treating PTSD: A Review of Evidence-Based Psychotherapy Interventions. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 12, 258.
5. Pietrzak, R. H., Goldstein, R. B., Southwick, S. M., & Grant, B. F. (2011). Prevalence and Axis I comorbidity of full and partial posttraumatic stress disorder in the United States: results from Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25(3), 456–465.
6. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Understanding PTSD and Substance Use for Veterans, General Public, Family and Friends.
7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health [Internet]. CHAPTER 2, THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF SUBSTANCE USE, MISUSE, AND ADDICTION. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services.
8. Rapp, R. C., Xu, J., Carr, C. A., Lane, D. T., Wang, J., & Carlson, R. (2006). Treatment barriers identified by substance abusers assessed at a centralized intake unit. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 30(3), 227–235.
9. Flory, J. D., & Yehuda, R. (2015). Comorbidity between post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder: alternative explanations and treatment considerations. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 17(2), 141–150.
10. Berenz, E. C., & Coffey, S. F. (2012). Treatment of co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(5), 469–477.
11. Brewin C. R. (2015). Re-experiencing traumatic events in PTSD: new avenues in research on intrusive memories and flashbacks. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 6, 27180.