is categorized according to when symptoms occur and how long they last. There are 3 types of PTSD:
Acute—symptoms last between 1-3 months after the eventChronic—symptoms last more than 3 months after the eventDelayed onset—symptoms don’t appear until at least 6 months after the event
Diagnosis of PTSD is usually based on the following:
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. This could be done by a structured interview and/or questionnaire. You will be given a psychological assessment and asked about past trauma. PTSD will be diagnosed if you have the specified symptoms, they last for more than one month, and they result in both emotional distress and disturbed functioning (problems at school, work, and/or in family and peer relationships).
Diagnosis is often based on the criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-5), which include the following:
Exposure to a traumatic eventRecurrent and intrusive distressing memories of the eventRepeated vivid and uncontrollable memoriesEmotional numbnessPhysical symptoms of fear triggered by cues in the environment or other physical sensations that dredge up the traumatic eventInterference with work, school, and/or relationships
Using and withdrawing from addictive substances can cause
and other symptoms that resemble PTSD. Your doctor may ask about your use of alcohol and other drugs.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
PTSD basics. National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
website. Available at:
http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/index.asp. Accessed December 20, 2014.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. American Academy of Family Physicians
Family Doctor website. Available at:
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder.html. Updated May 2010. Accessed December 20, 2014.
Stern, TA et al.
Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2008.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Adrian Preda, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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