The criteria for PTSD will be changed in the DSM-V in 2014 and I could give you the current DSM-IV definition but if you have been reading anything at all about PTSD you have already read it and you are still not positive that you meet the criteria for PTSD. Don’t worry you are not alone! So I will attempt to make the criteria itself understandable. While doing so I will take some license in expanding the definition to encompass my ex- perience of PTSD.
My definition is broader than the one in the DSM-IV. The reason I am doing this is that I have found that PTSD is rarely diagnosed in clients that meet other mental health disorder criteria. You are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety or borderline personality disorder than PTSD, despite the fact the PTSD is possibly the core of these mental health issues in individuals with a history of trauma. My experience is that it goes undiagnosed more times than not. The major liberty I have taken is that I believe people can suffer from PTSD when a significant and abrupt change occurs in their view of the world. For example, the idea that “my world is secure” may be drastically altered if my father dies in a tragic car collision on his way home from work when I am 13. I may not have witnessed the accident, but the impact of that incident on my life may change my worldview drastically. Therefore, I have expanded the first requirement to encompass a change of world view not just an impact on the physical self or witnessing a threat to another. Remember that PTSD can have a delayed onset which can occur years after the event. Some individuals block the event completely for decades typically through the use of skills. Those skills may be healthy or harmful but have been useful to keep the symptoms of trauma at bay.
Criteria for PTSD
A. An event that drastically and suddenly alters your view of the world.
1. Your response is one of intense fear, helplessness or horror.
B. The event is re-experienced by you in one of these ways…
1. Recollections of the event
3. Feeling as if you are reliving the event
4. Psychological distress at reminders of the event
5. Physiological distress at reminders of the event
C. Avoidance of stimuli of the event or numbing of general responsive-ness in three or more ways…
1. Avoid internal reminders of the event
2. Avoid external reminders of the event
3. Poor recall of important parts of the event
5. Detached or estranged feelings from others
6. Limited range of emotions, e.g., numb, or always angry, sad or anxious
7. No plans for the future
D. Increase sensitivity or arousal in two or more ways…
1. Difficulty falling asleep
2. Difficulty staying asleep
3. Difficulty concentrating
5. Easily and overly startled
E. Duration is more than one month.
F. Significant impairment in functioning in one or more areas of your life.