Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms and a thorough psychological evaluation. Your doctor or mental health professional will ask you to describe the signs and symptoms you're experiencing — what they are, when they occur, how intense they are and how long they last. Your doctor also might ask you to describe the event that led up to your symptoms. You may also have a physical exam to check for any other medical problems.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to determine reimbursement for treatment.
Criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder to be diagnosed include:
- You experienced or witnessed an event that involved death or serious injury, or the threat of death or serious injury
- Your response to the event involved intense fear, horror or a sense of helplessness
- You relive experiences of the event, such as having distressing images and memories, upsetting dreams, flashbacks or even physical reactions
- You try to avoid situations or things that remind you of the traumatic event or feel a sense of emotional numbness
- You feel as if you're constantly on guard or alert for signs of danger, which may make it difficult to sleep or concentrate
- Your symptoms last longer than one month
- The symptoms cause significant distress in your life or interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks
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