Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): (My) Diagnostic Criteria (DSM-5)

The fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or better known as the DSM-5, is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States. It is utilized in the diagnosis of mental disorders. Included below are the DSM-5’s PTSD diagnostic criteria and my own symptoms, which I have highlighted in green.


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Diagnostic Criteria (DSM-5)

Criterion A: Stressor

  • Exposure to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury/sexual violence via (1 of the following symptoms is required):
    • Direct exposure
    • Witnessing, in person
    • Indirectly, by learning that a close relative or close friend was exposed to trauma
    • Repeated or extreme indirect exposure to aversive details of the event(s)
      • Usually in the course of professional duties
      • Not to include non-professional exposure via internet, TV, movies, pictures

Criterion B: Intrusion/ Re-Experiencing Cluster

  • 1(+) of the following symptoms is required:
    • Intrusive recollections of the event
    • Distressing dreams
    • Acting/feeling as though the event is recurring
      • Including illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashbacks
    • Intense distress or physiological reactivity to cues resembling the event

Criterion C: Avoidance Cluster

  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma (1(+) of the following symptoms is required):
    • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, and/or discussions about trauma
    • Efforts to avoid activities, people, and/or places associated with the trauma


Criterion D: Negative Cognitions/ Mood Cluster

  • Negative alterations in cognitions and mood (2(+) of the following symptoms is required):
    • Inability to recall features of the trauma
    • Negative beliefs and expectations (often distorted) about oneself or the world
    • Distorted blame of self and others for causing the traumatic event or the resulting consequences
    • Negative trauma-related emotions (i.e. fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame)
    • Markedly diminished interest in significant activities
    • Feeling alienated from others
    • Constricted affect: persistent inability to experience positive emotions.


Criterion E: Hyperarousal Cluster

  • Symptoms of increased arousal (2(+) of the following symptoms is required):
    • Irritable or aggressive behavior
    • Self-destructive or reckless behavior
    • Hypervigilance
    • Exaggerated startle response
    • Problems in concentration
    • Sleep disturbance


Criterion F:

  • The duration of disturbance must last for more than 1 month

Criterion G:

  • Disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning


PTSD Associated Features (Not a part of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria)

  • Extreme sense that the world is a dangerous place
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Suicide
  • Guilt
  • Anger/ aggression
  • Substance abuse

*If you suspect that you or a loved one may be living with PTSD, please seek help immediately.

This information was gathered from the DSM-5 and the University of Minnesota’s psychology department.

Disclaimer: I do not support self-diagnosing.


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