What tests are used to diagnose PTSD?
There is no medical test that can tell whether you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Your doctor will ask you questions to find out whether you have PTSD, what traumatic event may have caused it, and how severe your symptoms are.
Your doctor may ask about:
- The event that is causing your symptoms.
- Traumatic events in your past, including those that happened when you were a child. These may include sexual assault or physical abuse.
- Military service, especially if you have been in combat.
- Symptoms you may have. These include reliving the event, avoiding things that make you think about the event, feeling numb, or always being alert to danger. Your doctor also will ask if these symptoms disrupt your life.
- Any legal issues having to do with the traumatic event.
- Any other mental or emotional health conditions you may have, such as depression.
- Whether anyone in your family has had a mental health condition.
- Whether you have any suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others.
Your doctor may want your spouse, your partner, or a close family member to come with you. This person can help your doctor understand what you’ve been going through. Being with someone you trust helps you relax.
Your doctor may ask you to fill out questionnaires about your mental health. He or she may give you a physical exam and lab tests such as blood and urine tests. These can help rule out other things that could be causing your symptoms.
Can you have PTSD symptoms without PTSD?
Problems that have symptoms similar to PTSD include:
- Other mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety disorders.
- A head injury or conditions that affect the brain.
- Substance use disorder, such as alcohol use disorder.
- Thyroid gland problems. An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can cause symptoms such as nervousness and a rapid, pounding heartbeat. These symptoms can be confused with PTSD.
- Long-term lack of sleep.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition in which people have a hard time paying attention, may be more active than normal, and may act without thinking.