Taking A PTSD Test: Are PTSD Tests Effective?

Updated November 24, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that commonly develops after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Some people go years without ever seeking help after they’ve gone through something traumatizing. They may hold back out of fear, shame, or embarrassment. Others continue to deny that they need support, even when they begin to experience severe symptoms of PTSD. PTSD must be diagnosed by a mental health professional, but online tests can give you some insight into the symptoms you’re having, which may spur you to seek help.

Are You Considering Taking A PTSD Test After Enduring A Trauma?

Are PTSD Tests Effective?

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 treatment for PTSD should come from a licensed mental health professional. Mental health professionals are trained to diagnose mental health conditions using the diagnostic and statistical manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. Though PTSD tests may be effective in some ways, such as helping you to learn more about the condition, they should not be relied on for accurate medical or mental health advice.

Examples of Free Online PTSD Tests

You can easily find free online PTSD quizzes and tests in the public domain. They 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. Mental Health America offers a free PTSD test on its website.

  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. 

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 care provider communicate with one another, as well.

Many mental health professionals and counselors have found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be helpful in treating those 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.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic 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. An estimated 3.5 percent of American adults will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime. 

Symptoms Of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder may present with several different symptoms. Most of these symptoms fall into one of four categories and can 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 reliving 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, a 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 the 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 struggling 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.

Are You Considering Taking A PTSD Test After Enduring A Trauma?

The Importance Of Caring For Yourself Mentally

The emotional strain that is caused by PTSD can lead to long-term negative effects on one’s mental and physical well-being. For example, some people begin self-medicating (using substances to feel better) which can quite often turn into substance use disorder. 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 and that you don’t have to go through the healing process alone.

Online Therapy With BetterHelp

If you suspect that you have symptoms of PTSD, speaking with a licensed counselor about what you’re experiencing can be crucial. Though it’s difficult, working through the details of a traumatic event and processing your feelings can often help you find healing. For those who would like one-on-one counseling, BetterHelp may be an effective option. If you’ve gone through a particularly stressful or traumatic experience, you may be feeling emotions like shame, guilt, or fear. This can make it harder to open up to others, even those you trust. You can get connected from the comfort of your home and in a way that suits your needs.

The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

Online therapy has been proven to help people with a variety of mental health concerns. One study assessed the effectiveness of an internet-based CBT intervention for post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers found that it was just as efficacious as traditional face-to-face counseling for PTSD and “should be considered a first line treatment for people with this condition.”

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!"

The Takeaway

Traumatic experiences can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn for help. If you have experienced trauma and think you may have post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s important to speak with a licensed mental health professional for a proper diagnosis. Although online tests may give you useful information, they cannot provide you with an accurate diagnosis or treat your condition. An online therapist can help you process painful memories of the past and work with you toward recovery.

You Don't Have To Face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Alone.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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