DSM-5 PTSD Criteria

It is important to get a professional opinion regarding a PTSD diagnosis. The following information is based on the DSM-5  PTSD criteria. Criterion are separated into a number of different categories. Symptoms might be experienced in one or more category and severity of symptoms can vary in different categories.

The categories are: Exposure to stressor, intrusion symptoms, persistent avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, alterations in arousal and reactivity, duration, functional significance or exclusion.

PTSD Diagnosis Criterion Symptoms

Criterion A – Exposure to stressor

Recognition of direct or indirect exposure

  • Direct exposure to the traumatic event
  • You witnessed the traumatic event
  • You learnt of a traumatic event
  • Repeated or extreme indirect exposure to a traumatic event

Criterion B – Intrusion Symptoms

Experience of at least one of the following symptoms

  • Recurrent memories of the traumatic incident
  • Traumatic dreams in relation to the traumatic event
  • Dissociation symptoms which include flashbacks (feeling as if the traumatic event is happening again in the present moment)
  • Psychological distress caused by cues that serve as reminders of the traumatic event
  • Strong physiological reaction to reminders of the traumatic event

Criterion C – Persistent Avoidance

At least one of these two criteria

  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms which trigger memories of the traumatic event.
  • Avoiding external reminders of the traumatic event which can include: people, places and activities

Criterion D – Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Moods

At least two of the following criteria.

  • Dissociative amnesia – not being able to remember important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Persistent and negative beliefs or cognitions about self, other people or the world. 'I am a bad person, or the world is an unsafe place'.
  • Persistent or cognitive distortions in relation to blaming self or others for causing or consequences of the traumatic incident.
  • Negative trauma related emotions – for example: shame, anger, guilt or fear
  • Loss of interest in activities or interests once enjoyed
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • The inability to experience positive emotions – for example happiness and love

Criterion E – Alterations in arousal and reactivity

At least two of the following changes in arousal and reactivity

  • Irritable or aggressive behaviour
  • Self-destructive, impulsive or reckless behaviour
  • Feeling in a hypervigilant state – feeling as if you are constantly on guard
  • Exaggerated startle response - being startled easily
  • Problems concentrating
  • Problems sleeping

Criterion F – Duration of symptoms

  • Acute distress disorder symptoms are experienced for longer than one month

Criterion G – Functional Significance

  • The symptoms impair social function, occupation and other areas in everyday living

Criterion H – Exclusion

  • The symptoms are not attributable to medication, substance use or illness

For a PTSD assessment please contact us. We are based in London Paddington and Hertfordshire.