Do I Have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? A PTSD Questionnaire

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated March 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

When the term “anxiety disorder” is used, it isn’t uncommon to think of social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder may even come to mind. An anxiety disorder that frequently goes overlooked, though, is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. 

PTSD is an anxiety disorder known for the intense trauma that precedes it. Taking a PTSD test can help you take steps toward diagnosing the condition. Learning the signs of PTSD can also help you support yourself and your loved ones if this condition is suspected. 

PTSD: A definition

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Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your life

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that sometimes develops on the heels of a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events; individuals can develop PTSD from divorce and other life-altering events. Post-traumatic stress disorder can vary in severity, with more severe cases significantly interrupting day-to-day life. 

Although many people experience some degree of distress when dealing with difficult life events, PTSD differs in its severity and longevity. With PTSD, symptoms last long after they would typically subside, usually four months or more. PTSD may present comorbid, or alongside, other disorders as well, including panic disorder. 

Individuals with PTSD often benefit from the help of a mental health care professional.

What it means to have PTSD

Many people with PTSD feel alone or isolated from their peers. Avoidance, hypervigilance, flashbacks, and severe anxiety can all take a toll on an individual’s ability to function in typical settings. Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy might require more emotional energy than individuals have to spare, leading to self-isolation and withdrawal from friends and loved ones. Sometimes, seeking help can feel frightening or overwhelming. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder does not have to be permanent, though. It is possible to recover from the effects of PTSD with the help of a professional. 

Who experiences post traumatic stress?

Trauma is more common than many people realize, and it is relatively common for individuals who have experienced severe trauma to develop PTSD. These types of traumas might include war, a serious car accident, or a natural disaster. 

Even so, such overtly traumatic experiences are not prerequisites to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. What may seem to be more subtle situations, including divorce, moving, or being in an abusive partnership can also cause trauma. Thus, PTSD is understood to affect a large number of people with countless backgrounds, life events, and emotional states.

In fact, the National Center for PTSD notes that the condition may affect roughly 8% of women and 4% of men at some point in their lives.
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PTSD symptoms

The symptoms of PTSD can span many experiences and behaviors. Still, there are a few that stand out as the core of PTSD symptoms. These include:

  • Hyperarousal. Hyperarousal is a state defined by the sensed need to remain on high alert. This desire is driven by the trauma experienced and can look different depending on the person. Common manifestations of hyperarousal include jumpy behavior (being easily startled), difficulty eating and sleeping, and destructive behavior. Hyperarousal can cause anxiety to spike, creating a compound effect and making PTSD symptoms even more significant.

  • Flashbacks or “re-experiencing.” A flashback is usually punctuated by smells, sights, and sounds and is far more visceral than a single memory. Flashbacks are often a film-like replay of the traumatic event taking place.

  • Avoidance. Avoidance is defined as behavior that is engaged in to avoid something. Avoidance most often comes in the form of staying away from a place that is heavily associated with the trauma you experienced. Avoidance might show itself through an individual refusing to revisit the corner of the road where they were in an accident. Or, it could be refusing to listen to a certain song because it was the one playing while a person was assaulted.

  • Cognitive and mood changes. The most common cognitive and mood changes that result from PTSD are increased irritability, decreased interest in friends and once-loved activities, feelings of despair or hopelessness, and perpetual negative thoughts about oneself and the world.

A PTSD questionnaire

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Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your life

There are numerous resources for legitimate PTSD questionnaires and evaluations. While these cannot and should not take the place of an evaluation from a mental health professional, they can be an excellent steppingstone for individuals who suspect PTSD.

Perhaps the most pressing question when trying to determine if you are experiencing PTSD is this: “Have you experienced anything in your life that has caused immense stress, pain, or fear?” Answering this question is the first step toward determining whether PTSD is a possibility. Although there are some instances in which trauma has been experienced without someone realizing it, it is far more common for people with PTSD to know and understand that something significant happened to them, even if they are not certain of its scope.

Next, you can ask yourself, “Have you relived that experience in your mind or body?” In post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks are common and can be extremely distressing. Far from being a simple flash of memory of a traumatic event, a flashback often transports people with PTSD back to the event to such an intense degree that they might feel as though they can smell, feel, or even taste aspects of the trauma-inducing event. These flashbacks can be immensely distressing and have the potential to exacerbate existing anxiety or trauma.

Next, consider this question: “Have you experienced significant changes to your life following the event mentioned above?” The answer to this can help determine the difference between grief or an unpleasant memory and PTSD. 

Conclude with asking yourself, “Have you experienced avoidant behavior as a result of the trauma?” Avoiding the place where the trauma occurred or other aspects of the trauma could also indicate the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

If your response to each of the questions above is a resounding “yes,” it would be wise to schedule a visit with a mental health care professional as soon as possible. If you answered “yes” to some but not all the questions, it might still be prudent to speak to a mental health professional. 

Treatment options for PTSD

Care for PTSD can involve a few different forms of therapy. In some cases, medication is needed to help ease the symptoms of PTSD. More commonly, therapy is used. Trauma therapies such as EMDR may be used to work through post- traumatic stress symptoms. This is in addition to standard talk therapy. 

Some people find that more assistance is needed and may request lifestyle intervention assistance. They may even benefit from the help of a service animal, who can turn lights on and off, check rooms to make sure they’re empty, and provide a source of comfort and normalcy, should a PTSD attack come on. 

Not all therapies and treatments will be available to everyone, but a mental health professional can give you an idea of what’s available in terms of help. If you believe you match the criteria for PTSD, do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional to seek professional evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. This can be done through your insurance company, local therapy directories, or online through providers such as BetterHelp

Online counseling may be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing debilitating symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms can make it difficult to leave the house, interact with others, and go about normal activities. Online therapy is available from the comfort of your home. 

Online counseling may be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing debilitating symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms can make it difficult to leave the house, interact with others, and go about normal activities. Online therapy is available from the comfort of your home. 

Online therapy has also shown promise in treating PTSD effectively, especially using CBT. More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of other types of internet-based therapies.

Takeaway

Whichever route you take, PTSD is a disorder borne of trauma. Consequently, seeking treatment is a vital step forward in healing and improving your quality of life, and answering a PTSD questionnaire may help you take that first step toward treatment. Help is available, both in-person and online.
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