Do I have PTSD? Not everyone who wonders whether they could have the disorder has had a childhood trauma test or any PTSD test. Yet, many of us may be plagued by nightmares or recurring and upsetting thoughts, anxiety, guilt, or blame. When and how do you know if it is PTSD?
Understanding PTSD: Defining Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its Impact
PTSD is a mental health disorder or problem that may develop after witnessing or being involved in a life-threatening traumatic event. Horrible, tragic things happen to people without warning. Sometimes, traumatic events occur that are predicted or predictable, yet individuals cannot stop them from happening or are prevented from doing so.
Some of these frightening and traumatic events include:
- Natural disasters, such as a flood, volcanic eruptions, or an earthquake
- Severe accident
- Witnessing the death or serious injury of someone
- Losing a loved one because of suicide or homicide
- Abuse, physical or sexual assault
Stress is a normal reaction to experience after trauma, although most people feel better within a few weeks afterward. But those whose symptoms continue beyond a month and begin to cause problems in everyday life may have PTSD.
How Many People Have PTSD?
The National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that 3.6 percent of adults in the U.S. have PTSD annually. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is 6.8 percent. Meanwhile, statistics on PTSD from Mental Health America show that the disorder affects 12 million adults in the U.S.
Recognizing the Signs: Identifying Common Symptoms of PTSD
If you often ask yourself, do I have PTSD, it isn’t something to stress about. The best approach is to learn the common symptoms of PTSD to recognize the signs that may indicate you have the disorder. The critical point here is that you may have it, not that you do.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
Most experts in trauma and PTSD group symptoms in the following areas:
- Experiencing a traumatic event — or witnessing one — is a common symptom of PTSD.
- Intrusion — These signs include internal reminders of that traumatic event, which may manifest in experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, and unpleasant memories.
- Avoidance — Avoiding situations, persons, or places that may remind you of that traumatic event is another common sign of PTSD.
- Reactivity — Many individuals with PTSD experience mood changes due to the trauma, like irritability, anger, and difficulty concentrating.
- Alertness — Someone with PTSD often experiences hypervigilance to danger and constantly feels on high alert.
Yet, noticing one or more signs doesn’t automatically mean PTSD is present. Further attention and professional assessment may be your next step.
Self-Assessment: Reflecting on Personal Experiences and Reactions
Killing someone during war, armed conflict, or in self-defense can have a devastating effect. Even highly trained combat soldiers and members of law enforcement are not immune to the psychological damage from this trauma. Does this sound like you?
Start with a self-assessment. What is your mental state today? Begin with the brief PTSD test, or PTSD questionnaire, to understand your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Base your answers on personal experience and reactions to them.
Answer honestly. Since this is a self-assessment, it is confidential. No one else has to know you’re taking it.
- Have you experienced significant trauma as a child or an adult?
- Was the trauma something that happened to you, or did you witness the trauma?
- What happened following the traumatic experience? Were you injured? Did you have nightmares and difficulty falling asleep?
- Did you have a childhood trauma test? What about a trauma test or a PTSD test?
- After the childhood trauma test, did you have professional treatment?
- How long after the childhood trauma test did treatment begin? How long did it last?
- In the past month, how bothersome have disturbing, unwanted, and repeated memories of the traumatic experience been?
- Do you experience dizziness, sweating, upset stomach, or a rapid heartbeat when reminders of the traumatic event occur?
- What about upsetting thoughts about the trauma? Do they pop into your mind, and you don’t want to think about them?
- Think about the past month. Have you attempted not to think about the traumatic event, or did you avoid situations that could remind you of it?
- Are you often easily startled, on guard, and vigilantly watchful?
- Do you feel detached or numb to your surroundings, people, and activities?
- What about guilt or blame? Do you blame yourself or feel guilty that you couldn’t stop the trauma or problems that happened afterward?
Seeking Professional Evaluation: The Role of Mental Health Experts in Diagnosis
While a self-assessment can help clarify what you may be experiencing, only a mental health professional can properly diagnose and treat PTSD.
Types of Screening Tests for PTSD
Mental health professionals use several screening questionnaires and tests to help assess PTSD. Here is a brief overview of each.
Childhood Trauma Test
There are several examples of childhood trauma tests.
- A childhood trauma test, or questionnaire, is a self-report in retrospection. Its purpose is to provide a reliable, valid, and brief assessment of childhood traumatic experiences. The childhood trauma test can be used with adults and children and looks at childhood neglect and abuse experiences. These include emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and emotional and physical neglect. The assessment looks at the child-rearing environment as well.
- Another trauma test that measures the number and effects of adverse experiences in childhood is the ACE test. The acronym stands for Adverse Childhood Experience. Psychologists designed this test to assess the level of trauma someone experienced in childhood.
- The Child and Adolescent Trauma Screen is another example of a childhood trauma test. It screens for PTSD symptoms stemming from traumatic events. This is administered by a clinician using a 30-item scale for PTSD that is based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifty Edition (DSM-5).
Structured Clinical Interviews for PTSD Test
Two examples of structured clinical interviews to detect PTSD follow:
The first is the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, abbreviated to CAPS. The National Center for PTSD created this trauma test. Reportedly, this is one of the tests most widely used to screen for PTSD. The clinician asks the individual about the frequency and intensity of PTSD symptoms.
Another structured clinical interview PTSD test is the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM, abbreviated as SCID. This screening tool is an often-used trauma test to screen for PTSD and is also used to evaluate several mental health disorders.
Other Tests for PTSD
The other tests used to assess someone with PTSD are the Treatment-Outcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Scale (abbreviated as TOP-8), SPAN, the SPRINT Trauma Screening Questionnaire, and the Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5. These are essentially screening tools to help determine whether an individual has PTSD and may need more in-depth evaluation. It is important to note that these tests are not definitive. They must be used along with clinical interviews and other diagnostic tools.
Mental Health Experts: Assess, Diagnose, Monitor
When you live with PTSD, you want the best possible outcome. This means you need mental health experts to properly assess, diagnose, and monitor your PTSD symptoms before, during, and after treatment.
Your treatment professionals will design a plan based on your symptoms, intensity, frequency, co-existing substance use, other mental health disorders, and medical conditions.
Navigating Your Experience: Steps Toward Support and Treatment for PTSD
Do I have PTSD? After reviewing what it is, how it manifests, common symptoms, the various screening tests, and questionnaires to detect it, you may be convinced that the extraordinary challenge you’re experiencing following traumatic events is PTSD. You want relief, the treatment that works, and the ability to resume everyday life.
Without treatment, someone with PTSD will endlessly relive the horrific trauma. Their lives will continue to deteriorate. Too many individuals with PTSD take their lives, especially combat veterans. Treatment is the best and likely only way to overcome PTSD.
Remember that you can’t wish PTSD away. Nor should you feel guilty for having it. Conversely, treatment offers hope, can bring you peace, and restore your sense of self-worth and self-confidence. It is your way to find happiness, purpose, and fulfillment again.
If you are ready to get help for PTSD, our mental health experts at Restore-Mental Health can help you navigate the next steps. Contact us to begin PTSD treatment and start finding relief from your symptoms.