Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental condition that affects approximately 3.5 percent of the United States population every year. The intense and vivid memories people experience due to a past traumatic event can severely disrupt their lives. If those with PTSD do not seek professional help, the mental anguish they experience may drive them to substance use, self-harm, and even suicide. Because of that fact, early and accurate diagnosis is absolutely critical in order for those with PTSD to manage and live with this condition.
For those who suffer from PTSD and their families, the first question that is asked is if there is a test for PTSD. Fortunately, there are comprehensive tests for PTSD that allow for an accurate diagnosis of the condition. While some self-tests can be utilized, those should not be used for self-diagnosis. Instead, an exact PTSD diagnosis meets certain criteria, and testing needs to be performed by experienced mental health professionals. This article will take a deeper look at that process.
Professional Mental Health Screening is a Vital First Step
In order for someone to be properly diagnosed with PTSD, people must undergo an initial screening done by their primary care provider. This screening typically involves questions regarding the patient’s emotional states, sleep patterns, anger issues, and any lab tests that would rule out physical conditions that may be causing their PTSD symptoms. From this initial assessment, the primary care provider will often refer the patient to a mental health professional for more in-depth assessments, leading to an official diagnosis of PTSD.
An Official Diagnosis of PTSD
Using the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), a mental health professional will determine if someone has PTSD. Symptoms fall into four categories:
These can include involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or flashbacks of the traumatic event. These flashbacks people experience are lucid, and people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience over again or seeing it before their eyes.
People avoid the people, places, activities, objects, and situations that may trigger memories of their past trauma. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event and will also avoid talking about what happened or their feelings about those traumatic events.
Changes in Cognition and Mood
People who struggle with PTSD struggle to remember important aspects of the traumatic event. As a result, people’s beliefs about themselves and others are distorted. These distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event often lead to blaming self or others.
Changes in Arousal and Activity
Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one’s surroundings in a suspecting way; being easily startled, or having problems concentrating or sleeping.
In order to receive an official PTSD diagnosis, people need to display all of the following for at least one month:
- At least one intrusion symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two mood and cognition symptoms
- At least two arousal and activity symptoms
Common Tests for PTSD
In addition to using the DSM-V, mental health professionals will utilize various tests to aid in the diagnosis of PTSD. One common test for PTSD that is used is the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5). This is a 30 item questionnaire used to establish whether PTSD symptoms have been current in the past week and the past month. The questions also explore the onset and duration of symptoms, the impact of symptoms on social and work functioning, as well as the severity of PTSD symptoms.
Another test for PTSD is the Treatment–Outcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Scale (TOP-8). This test consists of 8 questions drawn from the core symptom groups associated with PTSD. Another PTSD test is called the PTSD Symptom Scale Interview (PSS-I and PSS-I-5). The PSS-I is a 17-item questionnaire asking patients to identify a single traumatic event that is causing their current symptoms. The PSSI-5 consists of 24 questions in which the majority of questions (20) focus on general symptoms, with the remainder (4) focus on symptom distress, interference, onset, and duration.
There are also self-tests for PTSD that people can take, such as the following:
- The Davidson Trauma Scale (DTS)
- PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5)
- Short PTSD Rating Interview (SPRINT)
With these self-administered PTSD tests, it is important to note that these are not meant to replace the diagnostic tests done in a professional environment. In order to officially be diagnosed with PTSD, people must get that diagnosis through careful evaluation by mental health professionals.
Are You Struggling with PTSD?
If you are experiencing the crippling effects of PTSD, finding quality mental health care is a top priority. Water Gap Wellness has established itself as a pre-eminent treatment facility offering the most comprehensive and intensive mental health treatment programs in the Tri-State area. Our experienced and compassionate staff utilize a wide range of evidence-based services and programs to tailor a treatment program suited to your needs.
We at Water Gap Wellness will work with you in your healing journey and will give you the confidence you need to shatter the stigma of PTSD and mental illness once and for all. Call us toll-free today.