Taking A PTSD Test: Are PTSD Tests Effective?

By Darby Faubion|Updated July 1, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Melinda Santa, LCSW

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include physical or sexual assault & violence which could potentially be triggering.

What is PTSD?

PTSD can cause individuals to feel lonely or isolated, and it's important to know that if you are suffering from this, you are not alone. In fact, an estimated 3.5 percent of American adults experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime. In honor of PTSD awareness month, this article shares resources and information about PTSD.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident or serious injury, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assaults. Individuals who have PTSD often experience intense, disturbing feelings or thoughts related to the traumatic event. Without professional treatment, these feelings can last for months, years, or longer. Can a therapist diagnose PTSD? Yes, seeking help from an online therapist and psychiatrist can be really effective treatment options. 

Symptoms of PTSD

Wondering If You Should Take A PTSD Test?

Post-traumatic stress disorder may present with several different symptoms. Most of these PTSD symptoms fall into one of four categories and may vary in severity.

  • Intrusive Thoughts, such as a memory, stressful experience or dream or a flashback of a traumatic event may occur. Often, the memory is so vivid that the affected person feels like they are re-living the same event over again.
  • Reactive symptoms may include feeling angry or having felt irritable frequently, participating in risky or self-destructive behavior (such as drinking or using recreational drugs) or being easily startled.
  • Negative thoughts or feelings may be experienced, including having distorted beliefs about oneself. For example, the person with PTSD may think that they are a bad person, when in fact, they are not. There may be a constant feeling of dread, intense fear, or even horror.
  • Avoidance is another symptom. Many people who have PTSD put forth extra effort to avoid any person, place, or activity that may cause them to remember the traumatic event. They may refuse to talk about the event or how they feel about what has happened.

Other symptoms people exhibit after traumatic events include panic attacks, difficulty concentrating, nightmares or bad dreams, difficulty sleeping, recurrent nightmares, trouble concentrating, feeling easily startled, anger, struggles with physical intimacy, being unable to control emotions or physical reactions effectively, or the development of other mental health issues, such as an adjustment disorder.

While most people develop PTSD within three months of the trauma, some may not. In fact, some individuals may experience delayed responses to trauma until it is triggered by a separate event. For a true diagnosis of PTSD, your troubles must be present for longer than a month, although most people with the disorder report suffering for several months or years. Without appropriate intervention, PTSD can cause significant distress and problems in functioning day-to-day.

How PTSD Is Diagnosed

To be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, an individual must be exposed to an upsetting, traumatic event, stressful life event, serious injury, or life-threatening situation. Contrary to some opinions, however, this does not have to be a direct experience. For example, learning of a horrible accident or event, such as the death of a loved one, may cause a person to develop PTSD.

PTSD is often seen in individuals who are repeatedly exposed to troubling events, such as firefighters, paramedics, and military personnel.

Screening for PTSD

As previously mentioned, PTSD is diagnosed based on a history of experiencing a traumatic event and the signs of post traumatic stress that follow. There are several resources for online questionnaires and online "tests" to take that may indicate if someone is having PTSD troubles. While these are all good resources for information, it is important to note that a mental health test should not be used alone to diagnose PTSD or provide treatment and not everyone will find them useful.

A PTSD diagnosis and treating PTSD should come from a licensed mental health professional. Mental health professionals are trained to diagnose mental health conditions and mental disorders, such as an anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, or other mental health conditions using the diagnostic and statistical manual published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Examples of Free Online PTSD Tests

You can find free online PTSD quizzes and tests in the public domain easily that will ask you about feelings you’ve had in the past month, six months, or even earlier. Some popular options for a PTSD quiz are listed below:

  1. PsychCentral offers a free PTSD test on their website that is reviewed by a Doctor of Psychology.
  2. The PTSD Foundation of America offers a PTSD Self-Assessment Test.
  3. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also offers the DSM I-V-based PTSD quiz

Be wary of tests that ask you to purchase something at the end. Generally, advertisers disclaim their ads on websites but this isn’t always the case.

Most of these test sites recommend that the user print the test results and discuss each item carefully with a primary care physician. Based on your problems, risks and history, your doctor or healthcare provider may recommend further testing to determine if a true diagnosis of PTSD is warranted. It's worth noting that sexual orientation minorities are generally at higher risk of PTSD compared to heterosexual people.

While some primary care providers may initiate medication management when a person is experiencing symptoms, most will also recommend integrating the services of a counselor or therapist to help manage and learn to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Because PTSD can have such a profound effect on individuals, it is important to discuss all PTSD treatment options and make sure that your primary physician and mental health provider communicate with one another, as well.

Many mental health professionals and counselors have found that Cognitive Behavior Therapy is helpful in dealing with PTSD. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a type of "talk therapy" that helps individuals learn to change their perception of a traumatic event and to learn effective coping mechanisms.

The Importance of Caring for Yourself Mentally

Wondering If You Should Take A PTSD Test?

The emotional strain that is caused by PTSD can lead to long-term effects both with mental and physical well-being. For example some people begin self medicating (substance use to feel better) which can quite often turn into substance abuse. Because of this, it's important to seek the help of a mental health professional when you begin experiencing issues.

Options for addressing PTSD troubles include participating in support groups, group therapy, or individual counseling. One thing to remember is that you should only do what makes you comfortable. Know that it is okay to not be "okay."

If you prefer to talk with someone on a one-on-one basis, rather than in a group setting, individual counseling could be very helpful. Whether you choose to engage the services of a local mental health provider or an online counseling service, taking the step to begin counseling is crucial.

For those who would like one-on-one counseling, but who have time and financial constraints, online counseling is an effective option. With online counseling, there's no need to sit in traffic or take the time out of your day to drive to an appointment. You can access BetterHelp from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"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 us feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn. If you have experienced trauma and think you may have post-traumatic stress disorder, don't lose hope. PTSD doesn't have to hold you back. With the right tools, you can get back to a life you truly enjoy via the help of a licensed therapist. Take the first step today.

Commonly Asked Questions:

How do you test if you have PTSD?
What are the 5 symptoms of PTSD?
What are the three core symptoms of PTSD?
Can I self diagnose myself with PTSD?
What PTSD feels like?
What happens if PTSD is left untreated?

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