Font Size
A
A
A
...
5
...

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (cont.)

How Do Health Care Professionals Make a PTSD Diagnosis?

PTSD is diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and requires: exposure to a trauma involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence; persistence of the following symptoms for at least a month; and the symptoms cause significant impairment and are not better explained by another medical or psychiatric condition. Specific diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5 are as follows:

  • "A. Presence of one (or more) of the following intrusion symptoms associated with the traumatic event(s), beginning after the traumatic event(s) occurred:
  1. "Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic event(s).
  2. Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content and/or affect of the dream are related to the traumatic event(s).
  3. Dissociative reactions (e.g., flashbacks) in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic event(s) were recurring. (Such reactions may occur on a continuum, with the most extreme expression being a complete loss of awareness of present surroundings.)
  4. Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event(s).
  5. Marked physiological reactions to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event(s).
  • "B. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event(s), beginning after the traumatic event(s) occurred, as evidenced by one or both of the following:
  1. "Avoidance of or efforts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic event(s).
  2. Avoidance of or efforts to avoid external reminders (people, places, conversations, activities, objects, situations) that arouse distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic event(s).
  • "C. Negative alterations in cognitions and mood associated with the traumatic event(s), beginning or worsening after the traumatic event(s) occurred, as evidenced by two (or more) of the following:
  1. "Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic event(s) (typically due to dissociative amnesia and not to other factors such as head injury, alcohol, or drugs).
  2. Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (for example, 'I am bad,' 'No one can be trusted,' 'The world is completely dangerous,' 'My whole nervous system is permanently ruined').
  3. Persistent, distorted cognitions about the cause or consequences of the traumatic event(s) that lead the individual to blame himself/herself or others.
  4. Persistent negative emotional state (for example, fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame).
  5. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
  6. Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.
  7. Persistent inability to experience positive emotions (for example, inability to experience happiness, satisfaction, or loving feelings).
  • "D. Marked alterations in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event(s), beginning or worsening after the traumatic event(s) occurred, as evidenced by two (or more) of the following:
  1. "Irritable behavior and angry outbursts (with little or no provocation) typically expressed as verbal or physical aggression toward people or objects.
  2. Reckless or self-destructive behavior.
  3. Hypervigilance.
  4. Exaggerated startle response.
  5. Problems with concentration.
  6. Sleep disturbance (e.g., difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)."

PTSD is a clinical diagnosis; there are no laboratory tests or brain-imaging studies currently used in clinical practice to diagnose PTSD. Brain imaging studies are under way to learn more about the brain in the PTSD condition, but these are not used in everyday medical practice. A physical exam and some blood tests may be necessary to rule out medical conditions that may mimic PTSD, such as hyperthyroidism which can create an anxiety state.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017
Medical Author:

Must Read Articles Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Anxiety
Anxiety Anxiety as a medical condition is characterized ...learn more >>
Grief and Bereavement
Grief and Bereavement Grief is our personal experience of loss. Mourning is a public expression of our grief. Bereavement is the period after a loss during which mourning occurs (usu...learn more >>
Nightmares
Nightmares Nightmares occur from time to time in many children, but they are most common in preschoolers (children aged 3 to 6 years) because this is the age at which norm...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

PTSD - Experience

Please describe your experience with PTSD.

PTSD - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your PTSD?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Effective Treatments

What kinds of treatments have been effective for your posttraumatic stress disorder?


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder »

The formal diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)was not introduced into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until its third publication in 1980.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary