What Are the DSM Criteria for PTSD?

What Are the DSM Criteria for PTSD?Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a very serious psychological disorder caused by exposure to emotionally intense trauma, such as the following:

  • Battlefield violence
  • Proximity to explosions
  • Sexual assault
  • A natural disaster
  • Long-term bullying or verbal abuse
  • The sudden death of a loved one

The brain tends to partially shut down during or shortly after such traumas in order to avoid more widespread emotional damage, such as a full nervous breakdown. Like a circuit breaker tripping during a power surge, the brain must be reset and the stopped-up emotions must be processed in order for recovery to take place.

Specific DSM Criteria for PTSD

Mental health professionals periodically gather to agree on the criteria necessary to diagnose certain mental health issues. The resulting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) details specific symptoms that must be present in order for a person to be officially diagnosed with PTSD. According to the most recent DSM, the following are the criteria for PTSD:

  • The person must have experienced a specific traumatic event.
  • The traumatic event must be re-experienced, such as through flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks.
  • The person must experience persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, such as emotional numbness, avoiding people or places, fatalistic feelings and loss of interest in previously important people and activities.
  • The person must experience hyper-arousal, which can include insomnia, anger management problems, abuse of others, lack of focus and easy startling.

These symptoms must be experienced for longer than a month and must cause noticeable impairment to general social, relational and overall emotional function and health.

Repercussions of PTSD

If left untreated, PTSD can cause a wide range of potentially serious repercussions, including the following:

  • Depression
  • Violence against others
  • Self-medication through drug or alcohol abuse
  • Addiction
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Some traumatized individuals don’t experience symptoms until months or even years after the trauma was experienced. These symptoms do not take care of themselves, however. Affected individuals must receive specialized treatment in order to minimize the symptoms. Though there is no known cure for PTSD, the effects of the disorder can be significantly managed through special forms of counseling.

PTSD and Addiction Help

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from PTSD, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline immediately. Regardless of the time of day or night, our counselors are standing by with the following free services:

  • Confidential answers to all questions about PTSD
  • Help in identifying PTSD in self or loved ones
  • Access to the most successful PTSD and addiction recovery services
  • Confirmation of insurance coverage of treatment costs
  • Logistical support

Only a psychologist or psychiatrist can officially diagnose PTSD, but if these symptoms seem to describe your experience, please call right away. PTSD can unnecessarily destroy your quality of life, but we can help you find the peace of mind you crave.