Do I Have PTSD?

How do you know if you are experiencing posttraumatic stress? Educating yourself about trauma and its impact is a good way to begin.

As part of  PTSD Awareness Month, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers the following Trauma Symptom Checklist to help people identify possible PTSD symptoms. You can also take a look at a similar list on my website,  Warning Signs of Trauma -Related Stress.

Please keep in mind that a checklist is not a substitute for a clinical assessment by a trauma-informed therapist. No checklist can capture all the ways people are impacted by trauma. Not everyone experiences PTSD in the same way;  research suggests some experience a dissociative subtype of PTSD. Some childhood abuse survivors experience complex PTSD.  Bottom line: if your life is disrupted by a traumatic event (or events), you deserve help and it is available.

That being said, here is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Trauma Symptom Checklist:

Check the symptoms below that you experience. Include symptoms you have even if you are not sure they are related to a traumatic event.

I experienced or witnessed a traumatic event during which I felt extreme fear, helplessness, or horror.

The event happened on (day/month/year) _______________.

What happened? ________________________________________.

  1. I have symptoms of re-experiencing or reliving the traumatic event:
    • Have bad dreams or nightmares about the event or something similar to it
    • Behave or feel as if the event were happening all over again (this is known as having flashbacks)
    • Have a lot of strong or intense feelings when I am reminded of the event
    • Have a lot of physical sensations when I am reminded of the event (for example, my heart races or pounds, I sweat, find it hard to breathe, feel faint, feel like I’m going to lose control)
  1. I have symptoms of avoiding reminders of the traumatic event:
    • Avoid thoughts, feelings, or talking about things that remind me of the event
    • Avoid people, places, or activities that remind me of the event
    • Have trouble remembering some important part of the event
  1. I have noticed these symptoms since the event happened:
    • Have lost interest in, or just don’t do, things that used to be important to me
    • Feel detached from people; find it hard to trust people
    • Feel emotionally “numb” or find it hard to have loving feelings even toward those who are emotionally close to me
    • Have a hard time falling or staying asleep
    • Am irritable and have problems with my anger
    • Have a hard time focusing or concentrating
    • Think I may not live very long and feel there’s no point in planning for the future
    • Am jumpy and get startled or surprised easily
    • Am always “on guard”
  1. I experience these medical or emotional problems:
    • Stomach problems
    • Intestinal (bowel) problems
    • Gynecological (female) problems
    • Weight gain or loss
    • Pain, for example, in back, neck, or pelvic area
    • Headaches
    • Skin rashes and other skin problems
    • Lack of energy; feel tired all the time
    • Alcohol, drug, or other substance use problems
    • Depression or feeling down
    • Anxiety or worry
    • Panic attacks
    • Other symptoms such as: ______________________________


Do you find these tools useful? Why or why not? Where you surprised by any of the included items? What’s missing?

I like to emphasize that the variety of common psychological and physical symptoms following a traumatic event are normal reactions to abnormal situations. When these symptoms disrupt your life or persist over time, trauma-informed professional help is available.

This entry was posted in Abuse, Complex Trauma, Dissociation, Health, Mental Health, Psychologist, PTSD, Trauma and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Do I Have PTSD?

  1. Kimberly Callis says:

    Reblogged this on Stoning Demons.

  2. Jag256 says:

    Hi – I just recently stumbled across your blog. I experienced a traumatic event 9 months ago. I feel like I have been functioning on auto-pilot ever since. I had started therapy before “it happened” to deal with the emotional abuse leading up to the event. I think I might have PTSD – but I don’t know how to tell my therapist. She works from an alternative, non-clinical framework, informed by post-structuralism, narrative therapy and her social work training, so we don’t work with “official diagnoses” and I like it that way. But PTSD as a construct seems like it might be helpful in communicating the state I’m in. Would you be able to suggest some other ways I could go about naming this for myself and for my therapist?

  3. Pingback: Reader Question: Treating Emotional Numbness | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Tucson

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