Diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
PTSD is categorized according to when symptoms occur and how long they last. There are 3 types of PTSD:
Diagnosis of PTSD is usually based on the following:
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. This could be done by a structured interview and/or questionnaire. You will be given a psychological assessment and asked about past trauma. PTSD will be diagnosed if you have the specified symptoms, they last for more than one month, and they result in both emotional distress and disturbed functioning (problems at school, work, and/or in family and peer relationships).
Diagnosis is often based on the criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which include the following:
Evaluation for Substance Abuse
Using and withdrawing from addictive substances can cause anxiety and other symptoms that resemble PTSD. Your doctor may ask about your use of alcohol and other drugs.
Evaluation of Other Psychiatric Disorders
Other psychiatric disorders often occur with or can be mistaken as PTSD. You may be tested for other psychiatric disorders, such as:
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Updated June 2017. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml. Updated February 2016. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated June 26, 2017. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Updated May 2014. Accessed February 1, 2018.
PTSD basics. National Center for PTSD—US Department of Veterans Affairs. Available at: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/index.asp. Updated April 17, 2017. Accessed February 1, 2018.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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