What Can I Do If I Think I Have PTSD?

National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
What Can I Do If I Think I Have PTSD?

The only way to know for sure if you have PTSD is to talk to a mental health care provider.

The provider will ask you about your trauma, your symptoms and any other problems you have.

Talk to Someone You Trust

After a traumatic event, it's normal to think, act, and feel differently than usual. Most people will start to feel better after a few weeks. If your symptoms last longer than a few months, are very upsetting, and disrupt your daily life, you should get help. Whether or not you have PTSD, treatment can help if thoughts and feelings from the trauma are bothering you. Talk to:

  • Talk to your family doctor.
  • A mental health professional, such as a therapist.
  • Your local VA facility or Vet Center, if you are a Veteran
  • A close friend or family member who can support you while finding help
  • A clergy member
  • Fill out a PTSD questionnaire or screen (see below).

Take a Self-Screen for PTSD

A screen is a brief set of questions to tell you if it is likely you might have PTSD. Below is the Primary Care PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, or the PC-PTSD-5 screen.

PC-PTSD-5 screen for DSM-5

Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example:

  • a serious accident or fire
  • a physical or sexual assault or abuse
  • an earthquake or flood
  • a war
  • seeing someone be killed or seriously injured
  • having a loved one die through homicide or suicide

Have you ever experienced this kind of event? YES / NO
If no, screen total = 0. Please stop here.

If yes, please answer the questions below:
In the past month, have you ...

  • had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to? YES / NO
  • tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)? YES / NO
  • been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled? YES / NO
  • felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings? YES / NO
  • felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused? YES / NO

If you answer "yes" to any three items (items 1 to 5 above), you should talk to a mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment.

Answering "yes" to 3 or more questions on the PC-PTSD-5 does not mean you have PTSD. Only a mental health care provider can tell you for sure. And, if you do not answer "yes" to 3 or more questions, you may still want to talk to a mental health care provider. If you have symptoms that last following a trauma, treatment can help - whether or not you have PTSD.


Seek Help

It's common to think that your PTSD symptoms will just go away over time. But this is unlikely, especially if you've had symptoms for longer than a year. Here are some of the reasons why you should seek help.

Early Treatment Is Better

Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop symptoms from getting worse in the future and lead to a better quality of life for you.

It's Never Too Late to Get PTSD Treatment

Treatment can help even if your trauma happened years ago. And treatment for PTSD has gotten much better over the years. If you tried treatment before and you're still having symptoms, it's a good idea to try again.

PTSD Symptoms Can Affect Those You Love

PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry or even violent. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your relationships.

PTSD Can Be Related to Other Health Problems

PTSD symptoms can affect physical health problems. For example, a few studies have shown a relationship between PTSD and heart trouble. By getting help for your PTSD, you could also improve your physical health.

It May Not Be PTSD

Having some symptoms of PTSD does not always mean you have PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are also symptoms of other mental health problems. For example, trouble concentrating or feeling less interested in things you used to enjoy can be symptoms of both depression and PTSD. And, different problems have different treatments.

When you seek help, your mental health care provider can determine whether you need treatment for PTSD, or another type of treatment.

Find the Best Treatment for You

Today, there are several treatment options for PTSD. For some people, these treatments can get rid of symptoms altogether. Others find they have fewer symptoms or feel that their symptoms are less intense.

You can learn about effective PTSD treatment options using the National Center for PTSD's Treatment Decision Aid. It includes videos to explain how the treatments work.

You can also build a chart to compare the treatments you like most. Both psychotherapies (also called talk therapy or counseling) and medications are included in the decision aid.

Posted on BrainLine November 28, 2017.

From the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs. www.ptsd.va.gov.

Comments (25)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I don't want to self-diagnose but I strongly feel that I have PTSD. It's in my gut feeling. Just like how when I had a gut feeling that my diagnosis was OCD back in 2017.

During my childhood years, I was traumatized by some boy who made me watch all the graphic things he did (I'll save you from the details. It's pretty gross).

In the year 2013, I was sexually assaulted. It scarred me for life and it made it hard to trust men. I felt helpless I couldn't even scream. I was petrified.

Years have passed and I saw a murder happen right before my eyes. Gunshots. Blood. The dying person. That taumatized me even more. I used to enjoy fireworks... but now I'm scared of any gunshot-like sounds...

I steer away from all the places or things that remind me of these events.

Oh btw, I have a Psychiatrist. We'll start EMDR after the pandemic right now. But she hasn't told me if I have a new diagnosis.

I was diagnosed OCD(2017), Bipolar Disorder Type 2 (2018), and Borderline Personality Disorder (2019).

You really should add a few things to your list, you can get PTSD from anything perceived as life threatening. It’s under studied but women do get it from traumatic birth or pregnancy loss as well as other medical procedures. Post partum ptsd does exists but is confused with post partum depression. I developed signs of PTSD from having a baby surgically removed in order to prevent my death from internal bleeding (I almost didn’t make it), it was pregnancy loss as well. 5 years ago but still suffer daily

I don’t know whether I have PTSD or not, when I was for my 14 year old cousin forced me to make out with him I kind of never thought about what happened after the police were involved but didn’t do anything. When I was 8 tho I started getting flashbacks and nightmares, something’s they're worse than others. Now I’m older and having had a history of self harm I’ve started talking about it. I don’t want to seem stupid or pathetic because it’s not like he raped me, all we did was kiss, but he took advantage of how young I was. I constantly feel alone and confused but I also feel a burning rage towards him. My counsellor mentioned to my mum the possibility of me having PTSD and then I started researching about it and the more I read the more I feel like I relate. But I’m still scared

I'm so sorry to hear what happened to you. Molestation can be worse thay rape, depending on the situation. A stranger rape is awful but has clear lines. Incest has blurred lines. You were taken advantage of at a young age. The shame is on the abuser, not you. Then you had to face them at family functions & pretend all was good. Please know you didnt do anything wrong. Your abuser did. I've been through the same & it's awful. Turns out he did this to several females, all generations, and no one said a word. It started at 3yrs old (my earliest memory anyway) & ended at 19 when I finally told. I was believed & he was ostracized. Not everyone has the same outcome. But standing up for yourself gives you a personal power you never knew you had! Your 1st step in taking your power back, is this forum. Good for you! Find a support group - it can really help. I'll be praying for you!

I feel the same way right now, I was abused by someone with pats and now that I have it in worried I can't be taken the same way

I know how you feel... and to be honest, i think i may have PTSD as well... i started researching about it and it appears that i have a lot of these signs of PTSD. But my family doesn't want to listen to me, all they do is torture me mentally... i never get time for myself, sometimes i just lock myself in the bathroom for an hour just to cry out all of my suffering. I wish this would end! Im starring to think life doesn't have a purpose and i might as well end it all. I hope you feel better tough...

2 years ago I was stalked and even was almost killed 6 times from my ex. Even though it's been so long I still been getting flashbacks,nightmares/night terrors,getting mad at my love ones. For awhile I try to block these memories out, thinking if I buried them away they didn't happen. But no matter how hard I try my symptom been getting worst lately. I'm going to see someone soon to help me .

Its ok to be upset. What happened to you was horrific. I hope they're in prison. I was diagnosed w ptsd in 2013. I was in counseling until 2017. What a difference that made. I saw a ptsd specialist. I was reliving the trauma every day. Nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks, my concentration was sh**! I still have bad days a few times per year but talking to someone definitely helped. Things will get better.

It's been a year, and I can still hear his voice. I still see the knife against my stomach as he threatens to hurt me if I don't give him the money at my desk. I can smell the stench of cigarette smoke on him.

My friends wanted to watch this show called Unbelievable. The girl gets assaulted and the rapist had a knife. The scene was only three seconds long, but it was enough to trigger an anxiety attack for me. I felt like it happened all over again.

My friend said "it was only for a couple seconds, what does it matter? You didn't go through what the girl on TV did."

No...i didn't... But I was still traumatized. Being robbed at knife point, seeing my life flash before my eyes, wondering what would happen if the guy actually slashed my stomach open... That still happened.

Last week, I was okay. Working morning shifts now instead of nights. Actually, working at a new job altogether. I still glance over my shoulder, but this workplace is more secure.

But now... All I can think about is that knife. And cry.

My grandson who is 19 nowhe lost his best friend in the Manchester arena bomb blast and his mum seriously injured and saw it all with his younger brother he cant sleep at night very agitated all the time doesn't want to go out anywhere he gets angry if anyone is trying to help him unable to get a job

I was attacked in January by an ex boyfriend. My wrist was broken and I ended up having surgery in February. Things have been manageable but now months later after returning back to work I'm starting to show signs of what I think is PTSD. Anxiety, flashbacks, anger and overall feeling guilty. I'm starting to treat people close to me poorly. I'm going to make a doctor's appointment and try to get in next week. What kinds of things should I expect to be treated with? And is there something I can do on my own to help me recover from this? I've been in contact with the courts and he is in jail but there will be a hearing coming up and I think that's what's triggering it.

I'm so sorry you had to go through that with people/friends who did not understand. If you're in an area where you can find a support group, that may help. You can also call the Domestic Abuse Hotline. They will help you connect to different help, including 1 on 1 counseling either free or sliding scale. This happens to more people than you know. I went thru incest from 3yrs old to 19yrs. I'm 49yrs old now. I became an addict off/on. I got clean shortly after I was stranger raped at gun point, pretending to be a cop. They've never found him. The cops blamed me for it. Good news is that I'm clean. But feelings aren't numbed. I have to work very hard & have learned that WE are NOT alone. My prayers go out to you, best wishes, and hope for healing. The best revenge is living well!

When I was 7 I was strangled by my best friend. I remember the details very vividly, from the weather to hearing her footsteps behind me. I feel like I can still feel her hands around my neck. I suffered from nightmares and flashbacks when I was younger but they went away for a few years but in the last two years they’ve come back. The nightmares, the flashbacks, being on high alert all the time and I don’t know what to do. After many attempts I’ve tried telling my parents what I’m going through but they refuse to take me to get help, going on about counselling and stuff. I don’t know what to do anymore I feel like I’m going crazy, I don’t even know if I have ptsd but it’s the only rational explanation

Go for counseling ASAP. Don’t wait as long as I did to get help.

Talk to a priest, counselor, or look for free resources online. Sorry bout your parents. It's ok to feel what you do.

Can young children be affected by PTSD? My life changing trauma happened when I was 5 years old. The violent death of my father in Viet Nam. Looking back on my life I now see so many signs that something majorly wrong was happening to me. In those days veterans were not treated with the respect they are now. I am 58 years old now and have never come to terms with what his death had done to my family. Is it possible to recognize PTSD after all these years.

I've been molested by my two brothers & father physically mentally abused by my mother. I have no relationship what any of them but I have a child that's 19 years old Ive guide her the best way I could. She has used my childhood as a weapon I tried my damage not to repeat the sickness but it seems to me it's slap me in the face. I find myself locked up in my room

Can someone get ptsd from a situation regarding police in a self defense situation? And when that person gets pulled over how do they calm them self down? I shake and can’t speak clearly and have a bust of mental alertness. Police normally see it as I’m scared or on drugs but it’s just results of a event invalving police.

Yes. Sorry to hear it. It makes complete sense. And now you probably have some legal battles you’re still fighting too. (GOOD LUCK!) Try EMDR to get rid of the PTSD. And if that doesn’t work they have trials right now with MDMA that should be approved by 2021. Use a radar detector in the meantime.... and stay away from cops!

How do you get treatment for PTSD if it requires leaving your safety zone? Especially if that trauma is related to healthcare facilities?

Ok, here goes. my son tried to kill himself 4 years ago he told me the Drs said he has PTSD now just recently he's been acting differently...fighting with everyone in the house violent outburst... and tells me his brother and sisters your setting off my PTSD several times a day is that possible thank you

Yes its possible. There is obviously something bothering him, to make him act out. Anger is a symptom of PTSD and can happen when Your thoughts are conflicting. It is worth sitting down with him and asking him how he feels if that is an option. Give him time, dont judge and gently suggest speaking to his gp. Hope this helps.

just wondering if you have horrific nightmares that ARE NOT about your traumatic event. is that an indicator of PTSD?

I did , and I couldn't breath, felt like my room was my grave

I used to have really traumatic nightmares and panic attacks and I found out I had PTSD. Now its been 4 years but I am experiencing minor symptoms, trouble concentrating, nervousness, jumpiness, and flashbacks. Do I still have it?