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Post-traumatic stress disorder - How do doctors diagnose PTSD?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Your doctor will be able to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by talking to you.

You won't need a blood test or any other kind of laboratory test.[3] But your doctor may need to see you more than once to know for certain whether you have PTSD.

Your doctor will ask about your feelings, your health, the health of family members, and your symptoms.[3] You might be asked if you've been having trouble sleeping, and for how long. Your doctor will also ask you about what you've been through. He or she may also want to speak to other people in your family.

Your doctor may use a questionnaire that has been designed to help doctors diagnose PTSD. To find out more, see Questions your doctor might ask you.

Where can I get help?

Your doctor is the best person to talk to. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specialises in mental health, such as a psychologist.

If you're having trouble sleeping, your doctor may give you medicine to help you sleep.[19] But your doctor will probably only give you this sort of medicine for a short time, because there is a risk you'll get addicted to it if you take it for too long.

It is never too late to get treatment.

PTSD can be difficult to diagnose. This may be because:

  • Sometimes people with PTSD don't ask for help. One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is trying to avoid thinking about or talking about what has happened. If you have this symptom, it may make it hard to ask for help[3]

  • Even when people do ask for help, they may find it hard to talk about what they've been through. And doctors may find it difficult to ask about events that have upset their patient. So they may not realise that their patient's symptoms started after a frightening event[3][12]

  • Some of the symptoms of PTSD are similar to the symptoms of other mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.[12] And many people who have PTSD also have another mental illness.[3] So it is important to tell your doctor about what you went through before you started having symptoms.

Treatment can help. So if you keep having symptoms and they're not getting better, make sure you get help.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidelines for doctors about how they should treat people with PTSD. To read more, see What you can expect on the NHS.



A psychologist is trained to study the human mind and human behaviour. A clinical psychologist provides mental health care in hospitals, clinics, schools or to private patients.

For more terms related to Post-traumatic stress disorder


For references related to Post-traumatic stress disorder click here.
Last Updated: August 06, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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