PTSD Self Test
You probably met someone with PTSD and you didn’t know it. Eight million Americans have a diagnosed case of PTSD. Nearly six percent of people aged 13 or older will develop it during their lifetime.
PTSD has been a frequent subject of media reports and Hollywood movies. Yet few people know about its symptoms, let alone how it can be treated.
What exactly is PTSD? What causes it, and what are its main symptoms? How can someone with PTSD receive a diagnosis and start their treatment plan?
Use the PTSD Self-Test below to see if you may be experiencing any symptoms of PTSD — and read further to learn more about PTSD and its signs.
This test should be used as an educational tool. It is not a replacement for a proper diagnosis of any mental health disorder. If you are experiencing mental health issues, please contact a professional as soon as you can. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
The Basics of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs in some people who experience a difficult event. Many people feel shocked or disorientated after a scary or dangerous episode. This is normal and not a sign of a mental health condition.
PTSD occurs over several months. A person has feelings and thoughts that upset them, but they cannot get over them.
PTSD Causes and Risk Factors
The fight-or-flight response is an individual’s way of responding to danger. Their heart rate increases and their pupils dilate so they can engage with a threat or run away from it.
PTSD is when the traumatic reaction one has doesn’t truly resolve itself with time. The brain is convinced that the danger remains, so a person may have lingering fight-or-flight reactions when there is no true present danger.
Any event that involves a threat to someone’s life or well-being can trigger PTSD. Many people know of PTSD through military veterans, who may develop the condition after their tours of service.
But, anyone can develop PTSD.
It could develop as a result of a car accident, sexual assault, drug overdose, etc. Whatever the reason — this does not make an individual’s PTSD any less significant than another’s.
In some cases, learning that a traumatic event occurred to a close friend or family member can trigger the development of PTSD.
Women experience PTSD at nearly three times the rate that men do. African-Americans, Latinx, and LGBTQ people also report PTSD at higher rates than white and heterosexual people.
There are no genetic or biological components that scientists believe are tied to PTSD. The higher rates amongst women, LGBTQ, and BIPOC people may come from the discrimination that these groups face.
Every person who experiences PTSD experiences it in their own way. Some people may not suffer all symptoms, and the symptoms they do experience may change through time.
There are four general categories of PTSD symptoms. For a formal diagnosis of PTSD, someone must show at least one symptom in each category for more than a month. The symptoms of PTSD in children and those in adults are very similar.
The four subgroups of symptoms includes avoidance, re-experiencing, arousal and reactivity, and cognition or mood changes.
Someone will go out of their way to avoid situations reminiscent of the traumatic episode they endured. These situations may have little to do with what happened.
If they survived a shooting, they may avoid movies or video games that have shooting in them. They may leave areas that have loud noises like construction zones or firework displays.
If the subject of their traumatic episode comes up, they may try to avoid the subject. This may mean that they stop using the Internet or reading the newspaper so they don’t have to hear about a similar event.
An individual with PTSD may relive their trauma, even as they try to avoid it. They may have a flashback, seeing the traumatic episode in their field of vision. They may develop sudden physical symptoms like a flushed face or an increased heartbeat.
They may have nightmares about their event. Their dreams may start normally, but they may change to something violent or disorienting.
Thoughts about the event may pop into their head. They may obsess over what they could have done differently. They may want to hurt themselves or other people so they don’t have to think about the incident anymore.
Arousal and Reactivity
A person with PTSD may feel a constant sense of panic. They may become startled by noises, sudden movements, or people.
Someone may vocalize their feelings of arousal in several ways. They may say that they feel “on edge” or like someone is watching them. They may feel like they are expecting something bad to happen, even though nothing is wrong.
Some people with PTSD may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This may be due to nightmares or their general sense of anxiety.
Some people may become very emotional. They may cry at very small things, or they may have strong outbursts of rage or anger. Even though their emotions may impact their actions, they may refuse to talk about what is on their mind.
Cognition and Mood Changes
Even though people with PTSD re-experience their event in their mind, they may have trouble remembering certain features of it. They may blame themselves for what happened, even though they are not at fault. They may forget what led up to the event or what happened afterward.
Some people become very negative after their event. They may assume that the world is out to get them or that there is nothing to live for. They may feel intense emotions of dread and guilt.
Many people with PTSD experience a condition called anhedonia. Anhedonia involves a loss of pleasure in activities that used to bring them joy and focus. Some people may become emotionally numb, experiencing no pleasure whatsoever.
Other Trauma Disorders
A trauma disorder is a mental health condition that occurs after a traumatic event. PTSD is one trauma disorder, but an individual can have other co-occurring conditions.
The symptoms of acute stress disorder are similar to those of PTSD. But they occur just days after the event, while PTSD often surfaces weeks later. Many people with acute stress disorder develop PTSD.
Adjustment disorder occurs after a stressful event that changes a person’s life. This may be something like a romantic breakup that is not necessarily life-threatening. A person may have intense negative emotions, and they may display impulsive behavior when interacting with others.
Disinhibited social engagement disorder and reactive attachment disorder are two conditions that occur in young children. Both occur after a child is subjected to severe neglect at a very young age. They may engage in inappropriate behavior, including harming others.
Effects of PTSD
PTSD can be an extremely disruptive condition. If a person experiences a traumatic event because of their job, their avoidance symptoms may hurt their job performance. Being resubjected to similar trauma can cause a deterioration of their mental health.
Some people with PTSD turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with their condition. While drunk or high, they may not notice their symptoms anymore. This can lead them to develop a dependency that can have its own complications.
Some individuals may develop suicidal ideation. They think about or decide to commit suicide in order to stop the disorder. Anyone with suicidal thoughts should contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately and then seek additional help.
Treatment for PTSD
Anyone who experiences PTSD should consult their doctor about things they have been experiencing. Primary treatments for PTSD include psychotherapy, medication, or both.
Any proper treatment plan should be personalized to reflect the particular symptoms someone experiences. Treatment plans and approaches are often adjusted over time, as many people’s symptoms change over a few months.
Individual psychotherapy lies at the core of many people’s treatment plans. As the name suggests, a person sits down with a therapist and talks to them about their life and what may be on their mind.
Within individual psychotherapy are a number of modalities. Psychodynamic therapy lets people discuss childhood experiences and relate them to their ongoing thought patterns. Dialectical behavior therapy works well for people who need to work on recognizing and regulating their emotions.
Meditation lets individuals improve their focus and clarity. At a minimum, it lets them take a break to touch base with themselves. But it can let a person focus on other things, including soothing imagery and pleasant music.
Get Help When You Are Ready
PTSD develops in someone after they go through a traumatic event. It is an extension of the fight-or-flight response, but it plays out over several months.
Symptoms are significant. They include nightmares, intense feelings of anxiety, and heart palpitations. Conditions like adjustment disorder have similar symptoms, but PTSD is a distinct disorder.
PTSD can cause addiction and suicidal ideation. Anyone with it can pursue talk therapy and mindfulness training.
If you have PTSD, you can receive compassionate and comprehensive help in no time. Solara Mental Health serves the San Diego area. Contact us today.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Exhibit 1.3-4, DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/box/part1_ch3.box16/
- Cohen Veterans Bioscience. (2020, July 29). Post-Traumatic Stress. Retrieved August 16, 2021, from https://www.cohenveteransbioscience.org/post-traumatic-stress/
- National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Retrieved August 16, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2013, June 06). PTSD and DSM-5. Retrieved August 16, 2021, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/dsm5_ptsd.asp