The only way to know for sure if you have PTSD is to talk to a mental health care provider.
The provider will ask you about your trauma, your symptoms and any other problems you have.
Talk to Someone You Trust
After a traumatic event, it's normal to think, act, and feel differently than usual. Most people will start to feel better after a few weeks. If your symptoms last longer than a few months, are very upsetting, and disrupt your daily life, you should get help. Whether or not you have PTSD, treatment can help if thoughts and feelings from the trauma are bothering you. Talk to:
- Talk to your family doctor.
- A mental health professional, such as a therapist.
- Your local VA facility or Vet Center, if you are a Veteran
- A close friend or family member who can support you while finding help
- A clergy member
- Fill out a PTSD questionnaire or screen (see below).
Take a Self-Screen for PTSD
A screen is a brief set of questions to tell you if it is likely you might have PTSD. Below is the Primary Care PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, or the PC-PTSD-5 screen.
Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example:
- a serious accident or fire
- a physical or sexual assault or abuse
- an earthquake or flood
- a war
- seeing someone be killed or seriously injured
- having a loved one die through homicide or suicide
Have you ever experienced this kind of event? YES / NO
If no, screen total = 0. Please stop here.
If yes, please answer the questions below:
In the past month, have you ...
- had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to? YES / NO
- tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)? YES / NO
- been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled? YES / NO
- felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings? YES / NO
- felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused? YES / NO
If you answer "yes" to any three items (items 1 to 5 above), you should talk to a mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment.
Answering "yes" to 3 or more questions on the PC-PTSD-5 does not mean you have PTSD. Only a mental health care provider can tell you for sure. And, if you do not answer "yes" to 3 or more questions, you may still want to talk to a mental health care provider. If you have symptoms that last following a trauma, treatment can help - whether or not you have PTSD.
It's common to think that your PTSD symptoms will just go away over time. But this is unlikely, especially if you've had symptoms for longer than a year. Here are some of the reasons why you should seek help.
Early Treatment Is Better
Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop symptoms from getting worse in the future and lead to a better quality of life for you.
It's Never Too Late to Get PTSD Treatment
Treatment can help even if your trauma happened years ago. And treatment for PTSD has gotten much better over the years. If you tried treatment before and you're still having symptoms, it's a good idea to try again.
PTSD Symptoms Can Affect Those You Love
PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry or even violent. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your relationships.
PTSD Can Be Related to Other Health Problems
PTSD symptoms can affect physical health problems. For example, a few studies have shown a relationship between PTSD and heart trouble. By getting help for your PTSD, you could also improve your physical health.
It May Not Be PTSD
Having some symptoms of PTSD does not always mean you have PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are also symptoms of other mental health problems. For example, trouble concentrating or feeling less interested in things you used to enjoy can be symptoms of both depression and PTSD. And, different problems have different treatments.
When you seek help, your mental health care provider can determine whether you need treatment for PTSD, or another type of treatment.
Find the Best Treatment for You
Today, there are several treatment options for PTSD. For some people, these treatments can get rid of symptoms altogether. Others find they have fewer symptoms or feel that their symptoms are less intense.
You can learn about effective PTSD treatment options using our PTSD Treatment Decision Aid. It includes videos to explain how the treatments work.
You can also build a chart to compare the treatments you like most. Both psychotherapies (also called talk therapy or counseling) and medications are included in the decision aid.