First and foremost, please seek medical assessment and treatment from a trained trauma specialist for diagnosing PTSD.
This article is not intended for self-diagnosing. Mental health issues should only be assessed by licensed medical professionals. However, the information listed here is intended to give credible insight on what trauma medical providers use when diagnosing PTSD. PTSD can be caused by various traumas. Consequently, changes occur in the brain due to PTSD. Although there is valuable treatment and ways to manage PTSD symptoms, there is no cure for PTSD. Above all, find a qualified trauma trained medical provider who specializes in diagnosing PTSD.
Ultimately, here is what came directly out of the DSM-5. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the PTSD diagnostic criteria in the fifth edition of its “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5; 1). PTSD is included in a new category in DSM-5, Trauma and Stress Related Disorders. All of the conditions covered in this classification require exposure to a traumatic or stressful event as a diagnostic criterion. For a review of the DSM-5 changes to the criteria for PTSD, see the American Psychiatric Association website on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
DSM-5 Criteria for Diagnosing PTSD
Full copyrighted criteria is available through the American Psychiatric Association (1). Each of the criteria are required for the diagnosing PTSD. And, the following text summarizes the diagnostic criteria:
Criterion A (one required): The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):
- Direct exposure
- Witnessing the trauma
- Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
- Indirect exposure to averse details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)
Criterion B (one required): The traumatic event is continuously re-experienced, in the following way(s):
- Intrusive thoughts
- Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
- Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders
Diagnosing PTSD Criterion C
Criterion C (one required):
Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):
- Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
- Trauma-related reminders
Criterion D (two required):
Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
- Inability to recall key features of the trauma
- Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
- Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
- Negative effect
- Decreased interest in activities
- Feeling isolated
- Difficulty experiencing positive affect
Criterion E For Diagnosing PTSD
Criterion E (two required):
Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
- Irritability or aggression
- Risky or destructive behavior
- Heightened startle reaction
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
Criterion F (required): Symptoms last for more than 1 month.
Criterion G (required): Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).
Criterion H (required): Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.
Two specifications Required For Diagnosing PTSD:
- Dissociative Specification. In addition to meeting criteria for diagnosing PTSD, an individual experiences high levels of either of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli:
- Depersonalization. Experience of being an outside observer of or detached from oneself (e.g., feeling as if “this is not happening to me” or one were in a dream).
- Derealization. Experience of unreality, distance, or distortion (e.g., “things are not real”).
- Delayed Specification. Full diagnosing PTSD criteria are not met until at least six months after the trauma(s), although onset of symptoms may occur immediately.
Diagnosing PTSD References
Before you go, check out these valuable articles that will also help you!
- PTSD Residual Symptoms – What Happens After a PTSD episode
- PTSD and Forgiveness – Let Go of The Guilt
- A Letter From Someone With PTSD Written For Their Spouse
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- American Psychiatric Association. (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
- Friedman, M. J., Resick, P. A., Bryant, R. A., & Brewin, C. R. (2011). Considering PTSD for DSM-5. Depression & Anxiety, 28, 750-769. doi:10.1002/da.20767
- Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., Milanak, M. E., Miller, M. W., Keyes, K. M., & Friedman, M. J. (2013). National estimates of exposure to traumatic events and PTSD prevalence using DSM-IV and DSM-5 criteria. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26, 537-547. doi:10.1002/jts.2184
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