DSM-5 Criteria for PTSD

National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
DSM-IV-TR Criteria for PTSD

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the PTSD diagnostic criteria in the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)1. PTSD is included in a new category in DSM-5, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. All of the conditions included in this classification require exposure to a traumatic or stressful event as a diagnostic criterion.

Note that DSM-5 introduced a preschool subtype of PTSD for children ages six years and younger. The criteria below are specific to adults, adolescents, and children older than six years.

All of the criteria are required for the diagnosis of PTSD. The following text summarizes the diagnostic criteria:

Criterion A: stressor (one required)

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):

  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)

Criterion B: intrusion symptoms (one required)

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s):

  • Unwanted upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders

Criterion C: avoidance (one required)

Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Trauma-related external reminders

Criterion D: negative alterations in cognitions and mood (two required)

Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect

Criterion E: alterations in arousal and reactivity

Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Criterion F: duration (required)

Symptoms last for more than 1 month.

Criterion G: functional significance (required)

Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).

Criterion H: exclusion (required)

Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.

Two specifications:

  • Dissociative Specification In addition to meeting criteria for diagnosis, an individual experiences high levels of either of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli:
    • Depersonalization. Experience of being an outside observer of or detached from oneself (e.g., feeling as if "this is not happening to me" or one were in a dream).
    • Derealization. Experience of unreality, distance, or distortion (e.g., "things are not real").
  • Delayed Specification. Full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six months after the trauma(s), although onset of symptoms may occur immediately.

For a review of the DSM-5 changes to the criteria for PTSD, see the American Psychiatric Association website on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Full copyrighted criteria are available from the American Psychiatric Association1.

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Posted on BrainLine February 22, 2018. Reviewed August 9, 2018.

From the National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. www.ptsd.va.gov.

Comments (17)

I am only 15 and I was diagnosed with PTSD since I was 12 because I was involved in a drive by with my sister and her and I both have it and we were both put in mental asylums in Michigan. We were in there for about 3 weeks with no social media or anything but did activities to get help with it and went to counseling for about 4 months. PTSD has us going through with insomnia and flashback and many more but I thought i'd share our story.

Pretty much sums up my life! I'm not a veteran, ritualistic abuse.

I receive a disability for PTSD/MST and went in to be seen @ Comp & Pen for an additional service related issue. I also have a eating disorder that I directly associated to the MST I don't recall every having an issue with food until after the 2nd MST happened. Now I am suffering from diabetes and am insulin dependent which I feel is a direct result of the eating disorder using food to cope, stuffing feelings and becoming numb. I was told that none of these things are related and that If I wanted an increase in my current disability rating that I needed to be suicidal. I am currently on my 3rd marriage which is riddled with unrest due to the MST apparently I have difficulty having a healthy sex life and they do not consider that as an issue. My husband and I have been thru marital counseling which actually made things worse...Any suggestions?

An ED will not cause diabetes. "Insulin dependent" is for Type 1 diabetics which is typically diagnosed in children or teens. It is a very different disease than Type 2 diabetes which can be diagnosed at any age and is often linked to weight gain. People often think they are "insulin dependent" when they are Type 2 and prescribed insulin, and that is not the case. Type 2's still make insulin, they are insulin resistant yet treated by flooding the body with more insulin. If you were "insulin dependent" you would have lost a lot of weight leading to diagnosis, and you would literally DIE without insulin because your body would not make any.

If you went to marriage counselling and things are worse, where did you seek this counselling? A qualified professional? If so, I would be following up with that professional to report that things are worse. Usually marriage counsellors give you concrete steps to take and discuss whether or not your marriage can be saved. If you have done all that and things are worse, then in my book the marriage is over.

Try DBT given your history of an eating disorder and PTSD. You can teach yourself DBT if you are really desperate. There is a wealth of information online.

Give EMDR a go

i myself have been diagnosed with PTSD and i have had this diagnosis for a little over 4 years. although i do not have PTSD from service in the military or combat situations such as those who serve our country I empathize and hope that something can be done for those who chose to risk their lives for their country. I am curious however as to where i should look for symptoms on a related topic, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). if anyone could point me in the right direction i would greatly appriciate it. i am writing a paper for a local community college that i am hoping to eventually public publically and get additional support for military vets that are still around. if anyone can help i would greatly appriciate it.

please look at the site of Peter K Gerlach.

I am deeply sorry about your experiences. If it is not too late you can check every topic of psychopathology in the DSM's 5th Edition (there are some pdf's online) which is the most reliable source compared to internet websites. Take care!

I hate the VA. They put me down for my service, my combat, my problems. I have been seeing them for 7 years at three different VA's. My last therapist tried to take away my service dog. That woman's boss made fun of my service record thinking my secret ops were bullshit. I meet a new psychiatrist this morning. I have PTSD. My dealings with the VA isn't going well. Why are these people so evil? I am just looking for help. It is getting closer to a confrontation. I hope it isnt today.

Go talk to your patient advocate

I am so sorry that you are going through this. Thank you so much for your sacrifice and your service. Please know that you are awesome.

Trying to figure out where to go and serve his to get tested for PTSD?


Contact your primary care provider to obtain a referral to a psychologist, your insurance company for a list of providers in your area, or check online for your state's psychological association for their list of providers (most states have either a directory through the professional organization or through the licensure board). Best Wishes!

What are some of the differances between PTSD and PTSD for kids younger than 6 years for DSM-V?

It appears to be paraphrased, but accurately so.  I say this as a mental health practitioner presently looking at my DSM-5.

It's an accurate paraphrase as my colleague noted.

Is this a direct quote from the DSM V?