Criteria Used to Diagnose PTSD
Clinical psychologists, psychologists, and Licensed Clinical Social Workers can diagnose PTSD. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD and/or relate to any of the criteria below, we highly encourage you to seek out a mental health professional.
Criterion A: Exposure
Being exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, actual or threatened sexual violence – through direct exposure, witnessing the trauma, learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma, or indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)
Criterion B: Intrusive Symptoms
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s): unwanted upsetting memories, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders, physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders
Criterion C: Avoidance
Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s): trauma-related thoughts or feelings, trauma-related external reminders
Criterion D: Negative alterations in cognitions and mood
Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s): Inability to recall key features of the trauma, overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world, exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma. negative affect, decreased interest in activities, feeling isolated, difficulty experiencing positive affect
Criterion E: Alterations in arousal and reactivity
Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s): Irritability or aggression, risky or destructive behavior, hypervigilance, heightened startle reaction [getting startled easily], difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping
Criterion F: Duration
Symptoms last for more than 1 month.
Criterion G: Functional significance
Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).
Criterion H: Exclusion
Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness
In addition to meeting criteria for diagnosis, an individual experiences high levels of either of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli:
Depersonalization: Experience of being an outside observer of or detached from oneself (e.g., feeling as if “this is not happening to me” or one were in a dream).
Derealization: Experience of unreality, distance, or distortion (e.g., “things are not real”).
Delayed Specification: Full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six months after the trauma(s), although onset of symptoms may occur immediately.