Should I Take A PTSD Test?
By Nadia Khan
Updated December 10, 2018
Roughly 7 - 8% or 7 to 8 out of every 100 people in the United States will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime, according to ptsd.gov. Some estimates suggest that the percentage of PTSD among the veteran population may be as high as 17%.
PTSD can occur after any trauma, in both women and men, but it is more commonly diagnosed in women. These traumas could include anything from accidents and physical assault to sexual assault or witnessing death. Like many mental illnesses, PTSD occurs on a spectrum of mild to severe cases.
If you are worried that you might be suffering from PTSD, there are many online tests available that might be able to help confirm or deny your suspicions. If the results show that you likely have PTSD, the best course of action is to see your physician or another health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options.
If you are undergoing a crisis or having suicidal thoughts, skip the online tests and reach out to one of these emergency resources immediately.
PTSD Symptoms Test
Per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), PTSD symptoms are extensive and vary from person to person. They state that to be diagnosed, you must have been experiencing symptoms for at least one month after the traumatic event, but symptoms can sometimes appear long after the traumatic event took place.
A few main symptoms of PTSD include:
- Reexperiencing trauma through intrusive nightmares and flashbacks
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Avoidance of triggers including people and places that remind you of the trauma
- Quick to become irritated or angry
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of focus
- Inability to experience positive emotions
In addition to these main symptoms, patients must present with several other symptoms. A few examples of these are things like:
- Negative beliefs about yourself or the world
- Inability to remember aspects of the traumatic event
Another thing that is necessary for a PTSD diagnosis is the confirmation that these symptoms are causing significant distress and impairment in your social life, work life, or other important areas. This impairment shouldn't be a result of another condition, alcohol, or drugs.
By checking out the diagnostic criteria outlined by the ADAA, you can get a pretty good idea as to whether your symptoms match those of PTSD.
Complex PTSD Test
Harvard University's Dr. Judith Herman has suggested the diagnosis of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) to describe the phenomenon of severe cases with symptoms that go beyond regular PTSD.
Even though this has proven to be a useful concept, C-PTSD has not yet been accepted as a separate diagnosis in the DSM. Patients who present with Complex PTSD have usually suffered from chronic trauma, such as victims of concentration camps, childhood abuse, and long-term domestic violence.
HealthDirect states that C-PTSD symptoms are a little bit different from those of regular PTSD. A few of these symptoms include things like:
- Inability to control your emotions
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Feelings of guilt
- Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches and chest pains
It can be harder to find a C-PTSD test online because it is not an official mental illness according to the DSM. However, many people believe that it is useful for diagnosing cases of PTSD that result from multiple traumatic events over time. This is in comparison to PTSD that develops because of a single trauma, which is how most people know PTSD.
Luckily, researchers and practitioners are aware of C-PTSD and are studying how to best treat it. In 2012, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the Complex Trauma Task Force released their free guidelines for treating C-PTSD in adults based on a survey of experts and a review of the existing literature. They found that:
"At the present time, the use of a phase-based treatment approach for adults with Complex PTSD has excellent consensus as well as two Level A (randomized controlled) studies supporting its use. Evidence supports the benefit of this treatment approach in enhancing outcomes related to PTSD symptoms, and equally importantly, in resolving other key aspects of this disorder, including persistent and pervasive emotion regulation problems, disturbances in relational capacities, alterations in attention and consciousness (e.g., dissociation), adversely affected belief systems, and somatic distress or disorganization. In addition, the guidelines recognize and highlight the importance of flexible, patient-tailored treatments where interventions are matched to prominent symptoms."
Even though there are no tests available online that relate specifically to C-PTSD, there are treatments available to help deal with PTSD that arises from chronic stress and trauma. A regular online PTSD test like the ones mentioned below may help confirm that you are displaying symptoms of PTSD, but speaking to a professional is the best way to narrow it down to C-PTSD.
PTSD Test Online Free
Like just about any type of mental illness, there are many tests and quizzes online that help people see if they might have PTSD. While these tests can be a helpful starting point, it's important for you to know that they shouldn't replace an official diagnosis.
There are also some tests that are more reputable than others. Try to find a test by a registered mental health or government organization (these websites often use .org or .gov in their domain names) and look to see how the test was developed. Most of them will say whether they pulled the test from a reliable research source, developed it based on the DSM criteria for PTSD, or used some other method.
PsychCentral has a free PTSD test on their website that is reviewed by a Doctor of Psychology and is based on the PCL-C Short Form used in the research of Lang A.J., and Stein M.B. (2005). Other online PTSD tests include PTSD Self-Assessment Test, offered by The PTSD Foundation of America, and the DSM I-V-based quiz available on the ADAA website. These tests are short, free, and easy to fill out online.
Typically, this kind of PTSD screening test will recommend that you print out your results if your score is positive for PTSD and share them with your physician or another health care professional.
So, You've Taken a Test for PTSD. What Next?
According to WebMD, some effective PTSD treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy (including SSRIs). These treatments can help reduce the main symptoms of PTSD that affect daily living, but don't necessarily stop all bad memories of the trauma.
CBT counseling is a type of talk therapy that helps change patients' perception about the traumatic event and build coping mechanisms to deal with their symptoms on a day-to-day basis.
A multidimensional meta-analysis by R. Bradley, Ph.D., J. Greene, M.A., E. Russ, B.A., L. Dutra, M.A., and D. Westen, Ph.D. (2005) found that completion of psychotherapy, including CBT and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), leads to large improvements for patients with PTSD. Another study conducted by N. Paunovic and L.G. Öst (2001) found that both CBT and Exposure Therapy were effective in treating PTSD in refugees, with reductions in symptoms of approximately 50%.
BetterHelp is one affordable online resource that is easy to sign up for and can connect patients with counselors who are experienced in treating cases of trauma and PTSD. These counselors can be messaged at any time and do phone counseling sessions.
A meta-analysis conducted by Van Etten, M.L. and Taylor, S. (1998) found that out of TCAs, carbamazepine, MAOIs, SSRIs, and BDZs, SSRIs and carbamazepine had the greatest effects. They also noted that both medication and psychotherapy were equally effective in treating PTSD, although SSRIs seemed to help more with depression-related symptoms.
Similarly, a study by W. Alexander (2012) states that based on research, SSRIs are one of the go-to treatments for PTSD, with sertraline and paroxetine being the two that are approved by the FDA for this purpose and have been studied extensively. If SSRI's don't work, SNRI's are another option to be considered.
Since PTSD is a mental disorder that has high comorbidity with other mental disorders (meaning many people with PTSD also have at least one other diagnosis), finding the right type of drug therapy to deal with those symptoms can be a bit of a trial and error process.
The symptoms of PTSD can be very scary and debilitating. It can be hard to live a normal life when the trauma that you have experienced in the past seems to follow you around everywhere. Deciding to consider it and take a test online is a great first step to managing these symptoms and getting your life back.
If you take a PTSD symptoms test and it leads to a diagnosis, the important thing to keep in mind is that effective treatments do exist. After scoring positive for PTSD, your physician or health care practitioner can help you compare the treatment options that are available and find which one might work best for you.
If you are worried for a family member, friend, or someone else in your life, you can encourage them to take a test for themselves and seek help but it will probably only happen when they are ready. There are many resources and groups online and offline that families and spouses supporting someone with PTSD can turn to for help and support.