Diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The doctor will begin the evaluation by taking a complete medical history followed by a physical examination. The doctor may ask you to undertake a few laboratory tests to rule out any physical illness. If no physical illness is found, the doctor will refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental healthcare professional.

Psychiatrists and psychologists use special assessment tools to evaluate a person for an anxiety disorder. For a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder to be made, a person must exhibit at least on re-living symptom, three avoidance symptoms and two increased arousal symptoms for at least one month. In addition, the symptoms must result in impaired functioning and cause significant distress. The doctor will determine if the symptoms coupled with the degree of dysfunction indicate PTSD. A diagnosis of PTSD requires that the symptoms be present for more than one month.

As such, there are no tests for post-traumatic stress disorder but a self-test for PTSD is available from The National Institute of Mental Health.

A diagnosis of PTSD can be difficult for a mental health professional to make since patients frequently complain of symptoms other than anxiety associated with a traumatic experience. Some of these symptoms includes depression, drug abuse and body symptoms (somatization). Studies of Iraq war veterans show that these individuals exhibit physical symptoms rather than those associated with emotional disturbances.

People with PTSD may have a history of attempted suicide, depression and drug abuse. PTSD may also occur along with bipolar disorder, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, and other anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. 
Frequently asked questions
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