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PTSD: National Center for PTSD


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Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5)



This section is for Researchers, Providers, & Helpers

This section is for Researchers, Providers, and Helpers

Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5)


The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5) is a 5-item screen that was designed for use in primary care settings. The measure begins with an item designed to assess whether the respondent has had any exposure to traumatic events. If a respondent denies exposure, the PC-PTSD-5 is complete with a score of 0. However, if a respondent indicates that he or she has experienced a traumatic event over the course of his or her life, the respondent is instructed to respond to five additional yes/no questions about how that trauma exposure has affected him or her over the past month.

The PC-PTSD-5 was designed to identify respondents with probable PTSD. Those screening positive require further assessment, preferably with a structured interview such as the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5). Administration of a clinical interview is not always possible due to time and personnel requirements. In these cases, it is recommended that additional assessment is conducted using a validated self-report measure. Specifically, the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) is a psychometrically sound self-report questionnaire that can be used for this purpose.

Changes from Previous PC-PTSD for DSM-IV

Several important revisions were made to the PC-PTSD in updating it for DSM-5:

  • PC-PTSD asked individuals to respond to questions about DSM-IV PTSD symptoms in reference to an experience that was "frightening, horrible, or upsetting," which could lead respondents to refer to events that, while stressful, were not considered Criterion A traumas (e.g., divorce). To avoid this, the PC-PTSD-5 asks respondents whether they have experienced prior trauma(s), and provides examples of events that qualify (e.g., sexual assault, war). If respondents have not been exposed to any traumatic events, they do not complete the remainder of the PC-PTSD-5. If they do endorse prior trauma(s), they respond to questions about DSM-5 PTSD symptoms related to those trauma(s).
  • PC-PTSD included 4 questions about DSM-IV PTSD symptoms, whereas the PC-PTSD-5 added a 5th item to assess whether the respondent has experienced guilt and/or a distorted sense of blame regarding the trauma(s). This additional item is consistent with more up-to-date knowledge about the PTSD diagnosis as described in DSM-5.

Administration and Scoring

Preliminary results from validation studies suggest that the PC-PTSD-5 should be considered "positive" (i.e., the individual has probable PTSD) if a respondent answers "yes" to any three of the five questions about how the traumatic event(s) have affected him or her over the past month. As additional research findings on the PC-PTSD-5 are published, updated recommendations for cut-point scores as well as psychometric data will be made available.


Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example:

  • a serious accident or fire
  • a physical or sexual assault or abuse
  • an earthquake or flood
  • a war
  • seeing someone be killed or seriously injured
  • having a loved one die through homicide or suicide.

Have you ever experienced this kind of event?

If no, screen total = 0. Please stop here.

If yes, please answer the questions below.

In the past month, have you...

  1. Had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to?
    YES / NO
  2. Tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)?
    YES / NO
  3. Been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?
    YES / NO
  4. Felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings?
    YES / NO
  5. Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused?
    YES / NO


Prins, A., Bovin, M. J., Kimerling, R., Kaloupek, D. G., Marx, B. P., Pless Kaiser, A., & Schnurr, P. P. (2015). The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5). [Measurement instrument].

References (PC-PTSD-5)

Prins, A., Bovin, M. J., Smolenski, D. J., Mark, B. P., Kimerling, R., Jenkins-Guarnieri, M. A., Kaloupek, D. G., Schnurr, P. P., Pless Kaiser, A., Leyva, Y. E., & Tiet, Q. Q. (2016). The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5): Development and evaluation within a veteran primary care sample. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 31, 1206-1211. doi:10.1007/s11606-016-3703-5

References (PC-PTSD for DSM-IV)

Prins, A., Ouimette, P., Kimerling, R., Cameron, R. P., Hugelshofer, D. S., Shaw-Hegwer, J., Thrailkill, A., Gusman, F.D., Sheikh, J. I. (2003). The Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD): Development and operating characteristics (PDF). Primary Care Psychiatry, 9, 9-14. doi: 10.1185/135525703125002360 PILOTS ID: 26676

Prins, A., Ouimette, P., Kimerling, R., Cameron, R. P., Hugelshofer, D. S., Shaw-Hegwer, J., Thrailkill, A., Gusman, F.D., Sheikh, J. I. (2004). The Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD): Corrigendum (PDF). Primary Care Psychiatry, 9, 151.

To Obtain Scale

This measure was created by staff at VA's National Center for PTSD.

Download the Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5):

  • PC-PTSD-5 Screen (PDF)
  • Coming soon: Using the Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5)

Download the Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-IV (PC-PTSD)

Are you using this measure with U.S. Veterans or Servicemembers?

Our PTSD Consultation Program can answer administration or scoring questions: or 866-948-7880.

Measure availability: Information on measures is available to everyone. However, the assessment tools themselves can only be distributed to qualified mental health professionals and researchers. We maintain measures developed by affiliated staff of the National Center for PTSD.

Date this content was last updated is at the bottom of the page.

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