Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A diagnosis is made via a medical professional’s evaluation based on specific criteria.

Medical professionals diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when:

  • Individuals have been exposed directly or indirectly to a traumatic event.
  • Symptoms have been present for one (1) month or longer.
  • Symptoms cause significant distress or significantly impair functioning.
  • Individuals have some symptoms from each of the categories of symptoms associated with PTSD:
    • For example, intrusion symptoms, avoidance symptoms, negative effects on thinking and mood, and changes in alertness and reactions.

Medical professionals also check to see whether symptoms could result from use of a drug or another disorder.

PTSD often is not diagnosed because it causes such varied and complex symptoms.

Also, the presence of a substance use disorder can distract attention from the PTSD.

When diagnosis and treatment are delayed, PTSD can become chronically debilitating.

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