Diagnosis

To diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder, your doctor will likely:

  • Perform a physical exam to check for medical problems that may be causing your symptoms
  • Do a psychological evaluation that includes a discussion of your signs and symptoms and the event or events that led up to them
  • Use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association

Diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an event that involved the actual or possible threat of death, violence or serious injury. Your exposure can happen in one or more of these ways:

  • You directly experienced the traumatic event
  • You witnessed, in person, the traumatic event occurring to others
  • You learned someone close to you experienced or was threatened by the traumatic event
  • You are repeatedly exposed to graphic details of traumatic events (for example, if you are a first responder to the scene of traumatic events)

You may have PTSD if the problems you experience after this exposure continue for more than a month and cause significant problems in your ability to function in social and work settings and negatively impact relationships.

Feb. 18, 2017
References
  1. 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 Dec.13, 2016.
  2. Clinician's guide to medications for PTSD. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/overview/clinicians-guide-to-medications-for-ptsd.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  3. Understanding PTSD and PTSD treatment. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/index.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  4. Treatment of PTSD. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  5. Coping with traumatic stress reactions. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/cope/coping-traumatic-stress.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  6. Helping a family member who has PTSD. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/family/helping-family-member.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  7. Post-traumatic stress disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  8. Posttraumatic stress disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder/Support. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  9. Rothbaum BO. Psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults. http//www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  10. What is posttraumatic stress disorder? American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  11. Lifestyle changes recommended for PTSD patients. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/cope/coping-ptsd-lifestyle-changes.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
  12. Krieger CA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 10, 2017.
  13. Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 13, 2017.