HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE PTSD?

While reviewing my PTSD website with one of my friends, he asked if I ever defined PTSD. Or said differently, what problems it causes or how one knows if they have it. The reality is, I really didn’t define it, expecting people to just  know what it is due to all the publicity it has been getting via veterans, in Florida with the Parkland school massacre, the wars, skirmishes and battles around the world and other local and universal catastrophic events.

So, in deference to my friend, here are some definitions based upon the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). (1)

PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However, symptoms may not appear until several months, or even years, later. The disorder is characterized by three main types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Increased excitement such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.

Diagnosis criteria that apply to adults, adolescents, and children older than six years old include exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation, through either:

  • directly experiencing the traumatic events,
  • witnessing, in person, the traumatic events,
  • learning that the traumatic events occurred to a close family member or close friend; cases of actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental, or
  • experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic events (Examples are first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse). While this area appears to be an exception, based upon ADAA research, I would suggest that exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures, unless exposure is work-related, are also stressors worthy of making the diagnosis.

The presence of one or more of the following:

  • spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events (Note: In children repetitive play may occur, in which themes or aspects of the traumatic events are expressed.)
  • recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or effect, i.e. feeling of the dream, is related to the events (Note: In children there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.)
  • flashbacks or other dissociative reactions, in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are re-curring (Note: In children trauma-specific reenactment may occur in play.)
  • intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events

Reference:

  1. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms


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