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 (14)

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.

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?