Many veterans returning home from military service experience post-traumatic stress disorder. These men and women have witnessed or been involved in life-altering, traumatic events that created serious physical and emotional challenges.
When doctors diagnose PTSD, they perform a physical exam to make certain medical problems aren't causing the symptoms and a psychological evaluation that involves discussing all of the signs and symptoms experienced up to and after the event. For this determination, the doctor uses criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—known as DSM-5.
PTSD is now included as a new category in the DSM-5: Here's a short summary of the criteria used for diagnosing PTSD.
The first requirement is that must have been a stressor—such as experiencing a death, a death threat or the threat of serious injury or sexual violence. The veteran may have been exposed to the stressor either directly or indirectly.
The second requirement for a diagnosis of PTSD is that the veteran consistently re-experiences the traumatic event through nightmares, flashbacks, or upsetting and unwanted memories.
Avoidance is the third requirement. The veteran must show that they are avoiding trauma-related thoughts or feelings and are avoiding trauma-related external reminders such as activities or environments that might bring up memories of the stressor event.
And the fourth requirement is labeled as “Negative Alterations in Cognition and Mood” which means the veteran’s negative thoughts and feelings cause other undesirable behaviors. Among many others these behaviors can include a loss of interest in day-to-day activities, increased feelings of isolation, excessive blame of others or themselves for causing the traumatic event, and an inability to experience a positive outlook.
There are additional criteria that include irritability, aggression, destructive behavior, hyper-vigilance, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping. If symptoms last for more than a month, impairs a person’s ability to function, and aren’t due to medication use, substance abuse, or other illnesses, the doctor may make a diagnosis of PTSD.
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