To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least one month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Keep in mind that it is natural to have some of these symptoms after a traumatic event. This is called Acute Stress Reaction, and generally resolves without any action. If the symptoms continue for several days but less than one month, the condition is called Acute Stress Disorder. There have been very good treatments that have been developed recently to treat ASD. However, if untreated, 50 to 80% of ASD will eventually develop into PTSD. This underscores the importance of early treatment for PTSD symptoms that do not go away quickly.
When the symptoms last more than a month, seriously interfere with one’s ability to function, and are not due to substance use, medical illness, or anything except the event itself, they may be classified as PTSD. It’s important to note that about 50% of people with a PTSD diagnosis also experience other mental health conditions such as depression, substance abuse, or one or more anxiety disorders.
A diagnosis of PTSD can only be made by a qualified medical provider and requires a thorough interview and may also involve psychological testing and collateral information from others.