If you think you may have post-traumatic stress disorder, make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional. Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect.
Take a trusted family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you.
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.
- Things you have stopped doing or are avoiding because of your stress.
- 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.
- Questions to ask so that you can make the most of your appointment.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor or mental health professional may 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 co-workers about my diagnosis?
- Are there any printed materials on PTSD that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions during your appointment.
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:
- What symptoms are concerning to you or your loved ones?
- When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms?
- Have you ever experienced or witnessed a traumatic event?
- Do you have disturbing thoughts, memories or nightmares of the trauma you experienced?
- Do you avoid certain people, places or situations that remind you of the traumatic experience?
- 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 recreational 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?
Feb. 18, 2017
- 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.
- 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.
- Understanding PTSD and PTSD treatment. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/index.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
- Treatment of PTSD. National Center for PTSD. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rothbaum BO. Psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults. http//www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
- What is posttraumatic stress disorder? American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd. Accessed Dec. 13, 2016.
- 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.
- Krieger CA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 10, 2017.
- Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 13, 2017.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)