When to Get a PTSD Diagnosis

PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder that, for many people, goes undiagnosed, even though it is fairly common.

Up to 10% of Americans will experience PTSD sometime in their lifetime, which accounts for up to 30% of all victims of trauma.

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When to Seek a PTSD Diagnosis

Before a PTSD diagnosis can be considered, an individual must have these “cluster” symptoms for over one month: recreating the traumatic event over and over; avoiding triggering people, places, or activities; and hyper-vigilance for danger. These symptoms should cause significant problems in everyday life.

An individual should seek a PTSD diagnosis if these conditions are present in their life, even if it has been several months or even years since a significant trauma, as PTSD symptoms can sometimes take that long to appear.

Understand that every person reacts to trauma differently. While some individuals “bounce back” after trauma, others need extra support and treatment to be able to heal mentally and emotionally from trauma.

Why Can it be Difficult to Obtain a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis?

  • It can be difficult for someone who is suffering from PTSD to recognize that they have a problem, especially if the symptoms appear after a length of time following the traumatic event.
  • PTSD is extremely isolating, making it even more difficult to get help.
  • Individuals believe they can manage their symptoms and recover without outside help.
  • Avoidance is a common symptom of PTSD, which makes it hard for someone to face his or her problems.
  • People suffering from PTSD often feel misplaced guilt about the event. Since they bear a measure of blame, they believe their pain is a punishment.
  • It can be impossible for someone suffering from PTSD to realize the connection of trauma and their symptoms if there is a delayed reaction to the trauma.
  • Some traumatic events are embarrassing and people don’t want to share painful events with others.
  • Many people don’t know who to reach out to for assistance.

Criteria for a PTSD Diagnosis

A medical professional will take a complete medical and personal history and take into account many different criteria when identifying a posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis. They will look for the following signs:

  • The traumatic event that an individual witnessed, experienced, or learned about, and the person’s response to that trauma (in adults: horror, fear, helplessness; in children: behavior problems.)
  • How the trauma is being re-experienced in an individual’s daily life: nightmares, intrusive thoughts, reliving the event, flashbacks, distress when triggered, in children: reenacting the trauma through play.
  • How the individual has coped with the traumatic memories: avoidance, detaching from relationships, blocked memories, etc.
  • Heightened arousal, including insomnia, anger, hyper-vigilance, easily startled.
  • How long an individual has suffered from these symptoms

After reading this information, you may suspect that you or a loved one has PTSD; it is important to find the right treatment so you can move on in a healthy way with your life.