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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosed?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    Hugo Teixeira


    Hugo’s vision is to help you experience more happiness in your life. He focuses on teaching practical skills and tools that align what you think, … View Profile

    There are a lot of tests and other evaluations to assist in the diagnosis of PTSD. One example of these tests is the Post-Traumatic Stress Questionnaire or PTSQ. However, best practice guidelines dictate that these measures be used in addition to standard intake questionnaires, and a diagnosis would only be given following an in-depth clinical interview taking into consideration the results of the tests. This is because PTSD can be quite difficult to diagnose, and also because clients often present complaining of anxiety or substance use disorders, without necessarily revealing a history of trauma. This is often because they do not make the link between the symptoms and the events, or because they may be reluctant to discuss the trauma.

  • Experienced in acute care of adults with mood and personality issues. Special interest in trauma related psychological injury (PTSD, ASD emergency services and military personnel … View Profile

    Generally PTSD can be diagnosed either by specific psychometric testing or clinical interview. The DSM-TR-IV gives specific criteria and symptoms which must be present. See websites such as BehaveNet or ACPMH.

  • 2


    Dr Toni Metelerkamp

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Toni works with adults and couples, and specialises in diagnosing and treating anxiety (panic disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder), phobias, substance and gambling, addictions, suicide and … View Profile

    Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can look quite different in different people and following different experiences. A psychologist who specializes in assessing and treating PTSD is best placed to make the diagnosis and they will use clinical judgment, in addition to psychometric tests, to ensure the diagnosis is accurate. Only psychologists have access to psychometric tests that are validated for clinical use. 
    You are right to question how the diagnosis is made because an appropriate diagnosis is important. Although a label is not really useful on its own, unless it helps a person better understand what they are experiencing, an accurate diagnosis informs treatment. In the case of PTSD, treatment is fairly specific so an accurate diagnosis is vital.
    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV TR) is available on the web and it describes the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, but be mindful that the newest version of the DSM (DSM 5) was released yesterday (Sunday 20th May 2013) and the diagnostic criteria for PTSD have changed.  Use the “Find a Psychologist” service of the Australian Psychological Society to locate a psychologist specializing in PTSD in your area.  Posttraumatic stress is difficult to live with but evidence based therapy can be very effective. I wish you well.

  • Ralph Graham


    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and … View Profile

    Yes, a psychiatrist or psychologist will do the diagnosis.
    While your question well answered by the professionals above I would like to add a comment.
    When a person continues to be affected by a traumatic experience it is referred to as post traumatic stress.
    If the number of symptoms and their severity match the list the diagnosis is given. But what if there are ongoing effects but not enough to be called PTSD?  You may wish to get a diagnosis to entitle you to benefits but you may well suffer from post traumatic effects without “qualifying” for a PTSD diagnosis.
    A person can suddenly manifest PTSD symptoms decades after a traumatic event after being triggered by something in the environment.  This means that the potential for interference in one’s life can be silently carried around by anyone who has had a traumatic experience. So, those who “moved on” and “got over it” may find out differently down the track.  The reality is that traumatic experiences affect many of us (all of us?) and those who do not have PTSD can also be made miserable by the unhandled past reaching forward to make trouble.  The PTSD diagnosis is very useful but with or without it, when past traumas are effectively addressed a person can experience enormous relief.

    Past painful incidents can be a bit like where an argument damages a relationship. Life goes on but things are never the same. If one day the parties sit down and resolve their upset they feel relieved and liberated and go forward with the emotional pain defused and now truly in the past.
    There are several methods that are effective in resolving past traumas in a permanent way. I favour the Applied Metapsychology techniques including Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR).   I would like to see more professionals train in this as it can make a big difference where a practice is focussed on resolving trauma.
    To ask a question in private or to get me to recommend someone in your area
    click Make an Enquiry

    My very best wishes,
    Ralph Graham

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