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A single traumatic event may last no more than just a few minutes, but its effects can linger for years to come.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can involve a range of deeply distressing symptoms, including nightmares and flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, feelings of guilt, and avoidance, just to name a few.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is linked to repeated trauma and involves similar symptoms plus a few additional ones. These can include difficulty regulating emotions, episodes of dissociation, and trouble maintaining healthy relationships. While it’s not yet a formally recognized diagnosis, an increasing number of mental health professionals are becoming aware of it.

People often associate PTSD with military combat, and it does affect a significant number of veterans. Still, PTSD can develop after any type of trauma. Regardless of the cause, it can have major consequences for day-to-day life and personal relationships.

Many people living with PTSD find that peer support can do a lot to ease the intensity of these symptoms. Connecting with others who’ve faced similar traumas can help you feel less alone, not to mention ease feelings of shame or guilt.

Not sure you want to attend a support group in person? Here are our picks for the best PTSD online support groups.

First, it’s important to understand that support groups don’t qualify as professional treatment.

In therapy, you’ll have a safe and confidential space to share your experiences of trauma and PTSD with a trained mental health professional.

A support group, on the other hand, will often be entirely made up of people living with PTSD. These members come together to share stories, ask questions, and offer guidance to others. While you might sign an agreement or agree to some type of privacy guidelines when becoming a member, these groups aren’t bound by the same confidentiality requirements as therapy.

Online options for PTSD support groups frequently involve messaging boards or chat forums rather than virtual “meetings” that take place over video.

These groups have a few potential drawbacks:

  • Anyone can join. While this is generally a good thing, it does mean that some people might not be there for the right reasons.
  • Professionals usually don’t lead or participate in these groups.
  • Most members recognize the importance of protecting others’ privacy, but others might be less considerate.

To find the best options for online PTSD support groups, we considered the following:

  • Accessibility. We chose support groups with easy-to-use, established websites. We also checked to make sure these groups had a fairly straightforward signup process.
  • Cost. We only included free support groups.
  • Rules and moderation. We considered guidelines used to prevent trolling, personal attacks, and other harmful and abusive behavior.
  • Privacy. Online support groups generally have open membership, though you’ll sometimes need an account in order to access all message boards. One upside of internet support? You have complete anonymity and can create a username and email address specifically for the group.
  • Number of members. Unlike support groups that take place in person, cyberspace doesn’t get crowded. Online, greater member participation can make it more likely someone will offer the words of support you need. Plus, a larger number of members also implies that many people find the group helpful.
  • Ongoing member participation. We also searched for groups with regular and prompt activity. After all, you won’t get much from sharing in a group where your post goes unanswered for days.

Best general PTSD support

Daily Strength

The Daily Strength PTSD support group offers message board-based community support for all things PTSD-related. The group doesn’t focus on any specific cause or type of PTSD, though you can post in two different sections: General and Crisis.

With more than 8,800 members and over 26,000 past posts, the community is fairly active, and the recent posts we explored have several thoughtful and supportive replies.

While Daily Strength does have a number of rules they ask all members to read and follow when posting and commenting, this community is not moderated. You’ll need to report anyone breaking these rules to the member care team, who may issue a warning, delete the problematic content, and then ban the member.

At Daily Strength, you’ll also find support groups for other mental and physical health conditions, including anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, and more.

Best for survivors of rape, sexual abuse, and sexual assault

After Silence

This forum aims to validate, empower, and support survivors of all types of sexual violence through protected and moderated message boards and online chat. After Silence emphasizes that all survivors of any type of sexual violence are welcome, regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.

The site offers a few public forums, including rules and guidelines and a welcome section, but you’ll need to make an account before chatting or viewing other message boards. Once you register, you can access more than 30 private forums on a range of recovery-related topics, including anxiety, self-harm, depression, and more. You’ll also find dedicated forums for LGBTQIA+ survivors and male survivors.

The site also provides recovery information and resources to help you find support in your area.

Best for CPTSD support

Safe Support Group

The CPTSD Foundation operates and moderates this private Facebook support group. Facebook’s secret group feature allows this support group to remain entirely confidential — even your friends and followers can’t view your posts or group membership. But you do need a Facebook account to join.

The Safe Support Group offers a place to connect with people around the world who also live with CPTSD. You can share your experiences and get guidance in a compassionate and understanding environment. Group administrators and moderators address inappropriate posts and content.

Best for a large peer community

r/PTSD

Reddit’s PTSD subreddit, active since 2008, has more than 65,000 members. This community exists to help people living with PTSD, along with their loved ones, connect with other survivors.

You can use this subreddit to share your story, ask questions, find resources for recovery and self-care, and get judgment-free support. Just keep in mind that asking for medical advice goes against the community guidelines.

If you’ve used Reddit before, you’ll find this forum easy to navigate. You can filter posts by different “flair” categories, including advice, resources, discussion, venting, or support. Even if you’re new to Reddit, joining and posting are pretty straightforward.

You’ll find a few important rules to follow in each subreddit’s right sidebar, and moderators try to ensure everyone follows those rules.

Best for survivors and their loved ones

MyPTSD

The MyPTSD forum helps connect survivors and their supporters with PTSD news, information, and community support.

You’ll find separate threads for several different PTSD and CPTSD topics, including sleep, avoidance, relationships, and hypervigilance. You can also access forums discussing function in day-to-day life, treatment, and PTSD news and research. Supporters can read these threads, but they can also connect with each other in a separate group.

Moderators try to ensure that all members follow the rules and work to prevent bullying and trolling, and you also have the option to report inappropriate or abusive posts and content.

Best if you prefer an app

7 Cups

This online therapy subscription service offers text-based therapy for a monthly fee of $150, but it also provides free chat rooms and support from what they call “listeners.”

You can access a dedicated Trauma Support forum, review frequently asked questions about trauma and PTSD, or connect with a trained Listener to talk about PTSD, or any other emotional concerns, including work issues, relationship conflict, anxiety, and depression.

The community appears fairly active, so you’ll likely be able to find others to connect with. But app reviews do point out that listeners aren’t always helpful or compassionate. Many people recommend reviewing profiles and reaching out to listeners with positive user reviews and good ratings, rather than simply waiting to connect with whoever’s available.

The 7 cups app is available for Android or iPhone.

Support groups often make up an important part of PTSD recovery.

Peer support can provide a sense of connection, safety, and comfort. Learning about the experiences of others living with PTSD can help ease feelings of isolation and loneliness. Joining a support group can also help you realize that recovery is possible, since some members may already be further along in their healing journey.

Support groups also offer a safe space to share personal feelings of survivor guilt or shame. Other members can validate these feelings while also reminding you that what happened wasn’t your fault.

With an online support group, you’ll get other benefits:

  • Anonymity. You don’t have to use your real name, or even your main email address. You can even log in from a public computer, if you prefer.
  • ‘Round-the-clock support. You can log in to the message board or chat room at any time, from wherever you are in the world.

You’ll find a few final details about online support groups below.

Are online support groups effective?

In general, evidence suggests peer support groups can have a lot of benefit.

Research from 2015 suggests many veterans find peer support groups helpful for:

  • providing hope and a sense of purpose
  • normalizing PTSD symptoms
  • connecting members with social support
  • improving day-to-day function
  • boosting trust and relationship skills

Older research also supports the benefits of peer support for veterans. In a study of 128 male veterans living with PTSD, other veterans made up an important part of their social network. Veterans mostly found these relationships supportive — and free of the tensions they experienced in their romantic relationships.

According to a 2020 review, peer-led support groups for survivors of sexual assault and abuse seemed to help improve participants’ mental and emotional well-being. The review authors noted that while some survivors might find participation somewhat difficult, connecting with others to navigate distressing memories and painful emotions could actually promote healing.

Online groups can make support even more accessible while adding a layer of anonymity.

Is a PTSD support group right for me?

PTSD support groups offer a safe place to find anonymous support for PTSD symptoms and guidance as you work toward healing. They don’t replace therapy, though, and recovering from PTSD symptoms without professional treatment may prove difficult.

Keep in mind that some online groups have limited abilities to moderate posts and chats. Many groups do have moderators and administrators who try make sure participants communicate with consideration and respect. Still, there’s always a chance some people will refuse to follow the rules and say hurtful things. You might also encounter written details of traumatic events that could trigger additional distress.

These things don’t make support groups a bad idea, but it never hurts to consider these factors before getting started.

On the flip side, message boards and chat rooms can sometimes make it easier to share painful experiences. No matter how understanding and supportive group members are in person, typing out distressing memories might feel easier than saying them aloud.

Do online PTSD support groups cost money?

While some online support groups may cost money, you have plenty of options for free support.

The support groups we’ve included cost nothing at all.

Are online support groups facilitated by mental health professionals?

A therapist or mental health professional might lead certain support groups. But for the most part, online support groups don’t have any designated leaders or facilitators.

It’s typically best to avoid seeking any type of medical advice or guidance from a support group — many groups even note this in their rules. Someone might make a helpful recommendation along the lines of, “I personally found EMDR really helpful,” but it’s important to remember that not all treatments work for everyone.

Group therapy, on the other hand, is a great option for therapist-led peer support. In group therapy, you’ll attend sessions with other participants seeking help for similar symptoms.

How do I know if I should see a professional?

Support from a trained mental health professional is always recommended for PTSD.

A therapist who has detailed knowledge of your situation and symptoms can help you explore techniques to address negative thoughts and teach mindfulness strategies or grounding exercises, all of which can go a long way toward improving your symptoms.

Therapists can recommend new treatment approaches and refer you to a psychiatrist if you’d like to try medication for severe symptoms.

Connecting with others living with PTSD can go a long way toward easing day-to-day distress. Just know that support groups usually have the most benefit when combined with professional treatment for PTSD.

Crystal Raypole writes for Healthline and Psych Central. Her fields of interest include Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health, along with books, books, and more books. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues. She lives in Washington with her son and a lovably recalcitrant cat.