What are the DSM Criteria for PTSD?

What are the DSM Criteria for PTSD?DSM criteria refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association (ASA) and used as the criteria for classifying mental disorders in the U.S. The DSM is the go-to source for clinicians, researchers, regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and even policy makers needing diagnostic criteria to perform their job. The latest publication of the DSM was in 2000, but a fifth edition is said to be published in May 2013, which is quite necessary to keep up with the changes and progression of mental health studies. To the general population, the DSM is relevant because it sets the guidelines for diagnosing what is and what isn’t a mental health disorder. This plays a key role in treating mental health issues.

The DSM has diagnostic criteria and statistical information on every mental health disorder or condition, including PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder. The DSM criterion for PTSD is as follows:

  • The subject has been exposed to a traumatic event with both conditions:
    • The subject experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others
    • The subject’s experience involved extreme fear, helplessness, or horror
  • The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced or re-lived in one or more of the following:
    • Repeated and intrusive distressing recollections of the trauma, including thoughts, perceptions and images
    • Persistent distressing dreams or nightmares of the traumatic event
    • Reliving or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring, i.e. having flashbacks, illusions, hallucinations, dissociative flashbacks episodes and a sense of reliving the experience
    • Experiencing intense psychological distress to internal or external triggers that resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
    • Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external triggers that resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
  • Recurring avoidance of things associated with the trauma and numbing and detachment, identified by three or more of the following:
    • The conscious effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, and conversations associated with the trauma
    • The conscious effort to avoid activities, places, or people that provoke memories of the trauma
    • Blocking-out or the inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
    • Noticeably showing diminished interest or participation in activities
    • Feeling detached from others
    • Restricted range of affect (lacking the ability to have emotional connections or intimate relationships)
    • Hopeless about a future (feeling like a career, marriage, or other long-term life plans are unattainable)
  • Recurring symptoms of arousal (not present prior to the trauma) exemplified by two or more of the following:
    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • Irritability, trouble controlling anger, angry outbursts
    • Trouble concentration
    • Hyper-vigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response (seeming on-guard)
  • The symptoms of reliving, avoidance, and hyper-arousal must persist for more than 1 month.
  • The symptoms will clinically cause significant interference, distress or impairment to one’s social, occupational or other areas of one’s life.

Looking for Professional Diagnosis and Treatment for PTSD and Other Mental Health Issues?

If you are concerned that you or someone you care about may have PTSD or another mental health issue, you do not have to rely off of your interpretations of DMS criteria. While it is great to research and be pro-active with your health, the best way to ease your worries is to talk with a professional about what’s going on. To learn more about PTSD or to find diagnostic and treatment help for all mental health disorders, you can call our toll-free helpline. Our recovery professionals are on-hand 24 hours a day to assist you with your questions, concerns, and needed information. We are the experts in mental health, and can help you find the treatment solutions that are right for your recovery needs.