Discover the latest breakthrough in treating post-traumatic stress disorder: a new PTSD diagnostic test. Learn how a blood test can help identify PTSD symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) are mental health issues caused by frightening or dangerous events. PTSD happens after one event, while CPTSD happens after many events over time. Both can cause depression, fear, flashbacks and difficulty building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Thanks to groundbreaking scientific research, blood testing is a promising new way to identify and help people with PTSD and CPTSD. These innovations could change how doctors understand and treat these afflictions in the future.
Current PTSD Diagnostic Tests
The most common way mental health professionals currently diagnose PTSD or CPTSD is through a clinical interview. During this interview, the professional will ask the person about their experiences, thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event. They’ll also ask about specific symptoms, such as nightmares, flashbacks or feelings of guilt.
There are several assessment instruments professionals can use to help diagnose PTSD. These include the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for the DSM-5 (CAPS-5) and the PTSD Symptom Scale Interview (PSS-I-5). A less-structured diagnostic tool popular with clinicians is the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 (SCID PTSD Module). These tools help the professional determine if the patient’s symptoms meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.
Obtaining an accurate diagnosis of PTSD can be difficult due to the subjective nature of the symptoms. Further complicating matters, patients seeking disability benefits might over-report their symptoms, whereas other patients, perhaps wary of the perceived stigma attached to mental health disorders, might under-report them.
The PTSD Blood Test: How It Works and What It Measures
A new blood test for PTSD can help clinicians and mental health professionals diagnose the condition more accurately. This test measures certain chemicals in the blood related to stress and trauma. When someone goes through a traumatic event, their body releases these chemicals as a response. By looking at the levels of these chemicals in the blood, doctors can better understand whether someone might have PTSD. Recent studies have shown that blood testing accurately diagnoses PTSD 77% of the time.
For instance, studies have shown that patients who have PTSD have higher levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and that levels of this hormone decrease when the patient watches a video that triggers memories of their trauma. The adrenal hormone DHEA has also been measured at higher levels in patients with PTSD than in members of the general population.
Compared to clinical interviews, blood testing may help professionals diagnose PTSD more accurately. Sometimes people might not remember everything that happened or might not want to talk about it. Memories can also fade or become jumbled over time; sometimes, they disappear entirely. A blood test can provide more objective information to help doctors make a diagnosis.
In addition to helping with diagnosis, a blood test for PTSD can also be used to monitor how well someone responds to treatment. If blood levels of the PTSD indicators being tested start trending toward what’s seen in healthy individuals, it could be a sign that the treatment is working. This can help doctors make better decisions about what kind of treatment might be best for each patient.
Blood-based PTSD and CPTSD tests could make a big difference in the lives of people who’ve experienced trauma. By providing a more accurate and objective way to diagnose and monitor these conditions, blood testing could help people get the help they need more quickly and effectively.
Benefits and Limitations of the Blood Test for PTSD
Blood tests for PTSD offer several benefits. They can help doctors diagnose PTSD faster, allowing patients to receive the right treatment sooner. Blood tests are also less invasive than other diagnostic methods, making them more comfortable for patients. Unlike clinical interviews, blood tests don’t require patients to delve into their past trauma and answer potentially uncomfortable questions. Blood tests can also provide valuable information about a patient’s overall health, which can help doctors make better treatment decisions.
But these PTSD and CPTSD tests have a few limitations as well. One issue is that they’re still new. While they’ve shown promising results, they aren’t as tried-and-true as other diagnostic methods, such as psychological evaluations. Another potential limitation involves controlling for confounding variables. Many of the hormones and blood markers that PTSD can impact can also be affected by many unrelated conditions. This means that doctors may still need to rely on other methods, perhaps in conjunction with trauma panel labs, to fully understand a patient’s PTSD.
Blood tests for PTSD and CPTSD also may not be available to everyone, and some patients might not have access to these tests due to financial or geographical barriers. Because blood testing is new and hasn’t yet replaced older methods as the gold standard for diagnosing PTSD, some health insurers might not cover it, forcing patients to pay out of pocket.
Other Tests for Mental Health Disorders
Medical professionals have used blood testing to help diagnose mental health conditions for many years. While it’s difficult to test for a mental health condition directly via blood, certain blood tests can show if a physical condition, such as thyroid disease or an electrolyte imbalance, might be causing or contributing to mental health symptoms.
For example, studies have shown promise for using blood tests in diagnosing depression, given the reduced levels of BDNF found in the blood of patients with major depressive disorder. Researchers are also working on a blood test to screen patients for bipolar disorder.
Like with PTSD diagnostic blood tests, however, more research is needed before blood tests become a standard method for diagnosing other mental health disorders.
Blood testing for mental health disorders holds great promise for the future, and it could help doctors diagnose and treat these conditions more accurately. As research continues, expect better understanding and improved diagnostic outcomes.
If you or someone you love might be suffering from PTSD or CPTSD, contact Restore Mental Health to learn more about our innovative new diagnostic and treatment methods. Our mental health professionals are eager to speak with you about the latest developments in treating individuals with trauma.