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PTSD: National Center for PTSD


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FAQs about PTSD Assessment



This section is for Veterans, General Public, Family, & Friends

This section is for Veterans, General Public, Family, and Friends

FAQs about PTSD Assessment

The following frequently asked questions provide answers on topics that are commonly asked about PTSD assessment by Veterans and the General Public.

How can I tell if I have PTSD?

Many people ask us how they can decide for themselves whether they have PTSD. It is natural to want to know why you are feeling or acting a certain way. However, trying to figure out on your own whether or not you have PTSD is difficult. Since many common reactions after trauma look like the symptoms of PTSD, a mental health provider must decide if you have PTSD.

Providers who have been trained to understand the thoughts and behaviors that go along with PTSD are best able to make that decision. A provider must use his or her training and judgment to select the best test or set of questions to use. Then he or she must interpret the results of the test.

The American Psychological Association suggests that only trained professionals give tests to assess for PTSD. If you think you may have PTSD, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. See information on how to find a therapist.

How can I find out if a mental health provider is able to evaluate me for PTSD?

You can ask questions about the provider's training and experience. Here are some questions you might ask:

"What is your specialty area?"

Many providers specialize in assessing and treating people who have experienced trauma. Providers who specialize in trauma will likely have expertise in evaluating PTSD. Some providers may specialize in working with certain kinds of trauma survivors. For example, a provider may work with adult survivors of childhood traumas. You may find a provider who specializes in a different trauma area than what you need, or who does not specialize at all. A provider who has experience assessing trauma survivors like you is most likely to have the expertise to do a good job on your assessment.

"How many PTSD assessments have you done?"

If possible, find a professional who has experience conducting PTSD assessments.

"What formal training have you had that will allow you to evaluate me for PTSD?"

If possible, find a professional who has completed training focused on PTSD assessment. Such providers are preferred over those trained only in general assessment.

"What formal training have you had that will allow you to evaluate me for PTSD?"

If possible, find a professional who has completed training focused on PTSD assessment. Such providers are preferred over those trained only in general assessment.

"Can you tell me a little about how you assess PTSD?"

You should feel comfortable with the assessment methods that a provider will use. A good assessment of PTSD can be done without the use of any special equipment. Most often, providers will have you fill out surveys or they will use a standard interview in which the provider will read a series of questions from a printed document.

Who can request a PTSD or trauma measure from the National Center for PTSD?

The American Psychological Association requires that anyone who gives and interprets psychological tests must have advanced training. That is why we only give out measures to people with at least a master's degree in psychology or a related clinical area.

What is the difference between an evaluation that measures trauma exposure and an evaluation that measures PTSD?

An evaluation that measures trauma exposure looks at whether you've gone through a traumatic event. Examples of traumatic events include combat, a car accident, or child sexual abuse. Sometimes the evaluation asks when the event happened. For example, you might be asked your age at the time of the experience. A measure of trauma exposure may also assess how you felt at the time of the event. You might be asked if you felt your life or the life of someone else was in danger.

By contrast, an evaluation that measures PTSD looks at how you felt or acted after you went through the traumatic event. You might be asked about the effect the trauma has had on your life, or any symptoms you may have had since the trauma. Some PTSD evaluations also ask about other problems such as depression or relationship problems. These other problems do not lead to a PTSD diagnosis, however.

If an organization is asking for proof of a PTSD diagnosis, what should I provide?

Only the results of a complete evaluation given by a professional can determine whether you have PTSD. Any organization with which you might be dealing will likely need the results of your evaluation. Therefore, you should see a health care provider who has experience in this area. As a patient, you can typically request a copy of your evaluation results from the professional who completes your assessment.

If you are a Veteran, the Veterans Benefits Administration has fact sheets on how to submit a compensation claim for PTSD. You can also call your local VA Medical Center to ask about benefits. Veterans Service Organizations (VSO's) also offer free guidance on completing claims.

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The National Center for PTSD does not provide direct clinical care, individual referrals or benefits information.

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Also see: VA Mental Health