Post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis

It’s normal to feel upset and confused after a traumatic event, but most people naturally improve after a few weeks.

If you’re still experiencing problems after 4 weeks, or if you’re having extreme or worrying symptoms, it’s recommended to speak to your GP. If you have mild symptoms and see your doctor within one month of the trauma, they may ask you to wait another month to see how things go.

If necessary, your GP will refer you to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment. You may see a psychologist, psychiatrist or community psychiatric nurse. They will help to decide which treatment is best suited to you.

PTSD is diagnosed by a psychiatrist through a mental health assessment. Your GP should carry out an initial assessment to decide what care you need. Your assessment should include information about your physical needs, mental needs, social needs, and risk.

As part of the assessment, they’ll decide if you need to be referred to the community mental health team (CMHT). A CMHT is part of the NHS and they are a team of mental health professionals.

You should be referred to the CMHT if you have had symptoms for more than 4 weeks or your symptoms are very bad.

Doctors use the following guides, which explain different mental health conditions, to help to diagnose you:

  • International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) produced by the American Psychiatric Association.

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