Sometimes when Veterans or other people do NOT receive a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis it can be confusing. Especially, when they believe or have been told that they DO have PTSD. Dr. Harry McCleary, licensed clinical psychologist, explains how the diagnosis of PTSD is more than just a group of common symptoms. The diagnosis of PTSD requires two main things: exposure to a trauma and symptoms following the trauma that are linked to that trauma. Sounds simple, but PTSD is a complex disorder that is often misunderstood.
PTSD is a mental health disorder that occurs as a result of TRAUMA. This TRAUMA has a very specific definition.
A trauma is defined as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one (or more) of the following ways:
1. Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s).
Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others.
3. Learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or close friend. In cases of actual or threatened death of a family member or friend, the event(s) must have been violent or accidental.
4. Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s) (e.g., first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse). Note: Criterion A4 does not apply to exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures, unless this exposure is work related.
PTSD also requires the presence of symptoms in each of the following categories:
1. Intrusion symptoms
2. Persistent avoidance of stimuli
3. Negative alterations in cognitions and mood
4. Marked alterations in arousal and reactivity
If you do not understand why you received a diagnosis or why you did not I encourage you to ask your mental health provider or primary care doctor to explain why. Mental health disorders can often be complicated and confusing. Consulting a mental health professional can be helpful in understanding your diagnosis and how treatment can help.
Dr. Harry McCleary is a licensed clinical psychologist and Navy Veteran. His channel is dedicated to educating Veterans, service members and their families about mental health.
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