If you think you may have post-traumatic stress disorder, make an appointment with your primary care provider or a mental health provider. Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect.
What you can do
Before your appointment, make a list of:
- Any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long.
- Key personal information, especially events or experiences — even in your distant past — that have made you feel intense fear, helplessness or horror. It will help your doctor to know if there are memories you can't directly access without feeling an overwhelming need to push them out of your mind.
- Your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed. Also include any medications or supplements you're taking and the dosages.
Take a trusted family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you.
Make a list of questions to ask so you can make the most of your appointment. For PTSD, some basic questions include:
- What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes?
- How will you determine my diagnosis?
- Is my condition likely temporary or long term?
- What treatments do you recommend for this disorder?
- I have other health problems. How best can I manage these together with PTSD?
- How soon do you expect my symptoms to improve?
- Does PTSD increase my risk of other mental health problems?
- Do you recommend any changes at home, work or school to encourage recovery?
- Would it help my recovery to tell my teachers or work colleagues about my diagnosis?
- Are there any printed materials on PTSD that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to focus on. Your doctor may ask:
Apr. 15, 2014
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms?
- Have you ever experienced or witnessed an event that was life-threatening to you or someone else?
- Have you ever been physically, sexually or emotionally harmed?
- Do you have disturbing thoughts, memories or nightmares of the trauma you experienced?
- Do you ever feel as if you're reliving the traumatic event, through flashbacks or hallucinations?
- Do you avoid certain people, places or situations that remind you of the traumatic experience?
- Have you lost interest in things or felt numb?
- Do you feel jumpy, on guard or easily startled?
- Do you frequently feel irritable or angry?
- Are you having trouble sleeping?
- Is anything happening in your life right now that's making you feel unsafe?
- Have you been having any problems at school, work or in your personal relationships?
- Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
- Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs? How often?
- Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most helpful?
- Posttraumatic stress disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
- Highlights of changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/changes%20from%20dsm-iv-tr%20to%20dsm-5.pdf. Accessed Oct. 8, 2013.
- Stress disorders. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric_disorders/anxiety_disorders/stress_disorders.html?qt=PTSD&alt=sh. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
- What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=posttraumatic_stress_disorder. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
- Stein MB. Pharmacotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. http//www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
- Rothbaum BO. Psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. http//www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
- Helping a family member who has PTSD. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/helping-family-member.asp. Accessed Nov. 9, 2013.
- Lifestyle changes recommended for PTSD patients. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/coping-ptsd-lifestyle-changes.asp. Accessed Nov. 9, 2013.
- PTSD overview. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/fslist-ptsd-overview.asp. Accessed Nov. 9, 2013.
- Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml. Accessed Nov. 14, 2013.
- Lineberry TW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 30, 2013.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.