Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. While only a qualified mental health provider can diagnose a condition like this, a tool like an online test might be able to give you insight into the symptoms you may be experiencing and encourage you to seek professional help in healing from the mental health effects of the traumatic event. See below to learn what symptoms to watch out for after experiencing something traumatic (health effects of a disorder like PTSD) and how an online test may help.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a trauma-related psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, a serious accident or injury, war/combat, assault, or other forms of violence. Individuals with this disorder often experience intense, disturbing feelings or thoughts related to the event. Without professional treatment, the symptoms of this mental health condition can last for months or years. An estimated 3.5 percent of American adults will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lifetime.
Post-traumatic stress disorder may present with several different mental health symptoms. Most of the symptoms of PTSD fall into one of four categories and can vary in severity:
- Intrusive thoughts, such as memories, dreams, or flashbacks of a traumatic event. Often, they can be so vivid that the affected person feels like they’re reliving the same traumatizing event over again.
- Reactive symptoms, which may include things like frequently feeling angry or irritable, being easily startled, or participating in risky or self-destructive behavior such as excessive substance use.
- Negative thoughts or feelings, which could include having distorted beliefs about oneself and experiencing a constant feeling of dread or intense fear.
- Avoidance, which may take the form of putting effort into avoiding any person, place, or activity that may cause the individual to remember the traumatic event, or refusing to talk about the event or how they feel about it.
While most people develop post-traumatic stress disorder within three months of the traumatic event in question, this is not true in all cases. In fact, some individuals may have delayed responses to trauma that will not be noticeable until triggered by a separate event. Either way, in order to be diagnosed with PTSD by a professional, symptoms must typically be present for more than a month.
What An Online Test For PTSD Examines
You can easily find free PTSD quizzes and tests online in the public domain. They’ll ask you about feelings and potential symptoms you’ve had in the past month, six months, or even earlier with the simple goal of encouraging you to get help at the end if your answers seem like they may correspond to post-traumatic stress disorder. If you’re interested in taking one, Mental Health America offers a free test for PTSD on its website, and The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers a DSM IV-based PTSD quiz on theirs.
Be wary of tests that ask you to purchase something at the end. Most reputable sites should simply recommend that the user screenshot or print their results and use them as a starting point of conversation with a primary care physician and/or mental health professional. Based on your symptoms, risks, and history, your doctor or mental healthcare provider may recommend further testing to determine if a clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is warranted.
Can An Online PTSD Test Diagnose A Mental Health Condition?
While some online tests for PTSD can be good resources for basic information, it’s important to note that they are not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health condition. A PTSD diagnosis and treatment for this illness should come from a licensed mental health professional. They are trained to identify mental health conditions using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. So although free, online PTSD tests may help you learn more about this disorder and encourage you to seek professional help, they should not be relied on for medical or mental health advice.
Getting Support For PTSD
First, know that PTSD generally will not resolve itself without treatment, but that the disorder PTSD is typically responsive to proper, clinical treatment. Second, untreated PTSD can be debilitating and even dangerous—and symptoms can worsen over time. Serious potential outcomes of untreated PTSD may include excessive substance use, problems managing anger or aggression, and self-harm and/or suicidal ideation.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 by dialing 988.
The most important takeaway on this topic is that effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder is available and that there’s no shame in seeking it. Since the primary treatment for this illness is usually some form of therapy—sometimes used in conjunction with medication, sometimes not—meeting with a mental health professional is typically a helpful first step in getting the support you deserve. They can offer a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can express your feelings, and they can help you identify healthy coping mechanisms for any PTSD symptoms you may be experiencing with the aim of reducing their impact over time.
If you’d prefer to meet with someone in person, you can search for a provider who specializes in this disorder and works in your local area. If you’d prefer to meet with someone from the comfort of your own home, you can consider online therapy as an option. With a virtual therapy service like BetterHelp, for instance, you can fill out a quick questionnaire about your needs and preferences and get matched with a licensed therapist who you can speak with via phone, video call, and/or online chat.
Research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—a common type of therapy for a variety of mental health concerns—can be an effective treatment for PTSD, including when delivered virtually. Remember that your treatment is more likely to be effective if you feel comfortable with the format, so choose the one that works best for you. If you're interested in the online method, read on for reviews of BetterHelp therapists who have helped clients in similar situations.
"Debbi has literally pulled me out of the black hole my PTSD had pushed me into. Within just a few months, I have made so much progress in understanding, managing and reducing my anxiety! I have never been so happy with a therapist before and I really never thought I'd be writing this one day. Debbi has the kind of depth, compassion and understanding that I have always wanted in a therapist. I like that she talks to me like a friend and not a cold, distant "expert". I still bank on her for soothing my distress but I also feel she has equipped me to deal with things on my own to a great extent too."
"Kristin is amazing. She is so dedicated to helping get to the root cause of my anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She is the first counselor to continue to motivate and accommodate my extremely hectic schedule. She really is a life saver! She has given me strength to believe in myself and want to continue to get stronger. If you're someone who feels you have hit every roadblock possible I strongly recommend working with Kristin!"
Traumatic experiences can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn for help. If you believe you may have post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s important to speak with a licensed mental health professional for an official diagnosis. Although online tests may give you useful information, they cannot provide you with an accurate diagnosis or treat your condition. A therapist—whether you meet with them in person or virtually—can help you process painful memories of the past and work with you toward recovery.
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