Recent changes to the way Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is classified are helping doctors diagnose and treat this condition.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety.

Even though the symptoms of PTSD have been recognized throughout history, it wasn’t until 1980 after the Vietnam War that the diagnosis of PTSD was used.

In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) added PTSD to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-3), the universal authority for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

Before 1980, the symptoms of PTSD were referred to as “shell shock,” “combat fatigue,” or “war neurosis.” Since then, there has been an extensive amount of research on the symptoms and consequences of PTSD, and all ages including pre-school age children have been seen with this condition.

Changes in Criteria for Diagnosis of PTSD

In May 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the PTSD diagnostic criteria in the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

PTSD is no longer categorized as an Anxiety Disorder. It is now classified in a new category, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders, in which the onset of the disorder has occurred after exposure to a traumatic event. The individual may either experience the trauma or observe it experienced by someone else.

In the new DSM-5 PTSD classification system, the following criteria must be met:

  • Exposure to a traumatic event
  • Recurrence of the event through memories, nightmares, flashbacks, and physiologic reactions
  • Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the event
  • Negative changes in thought and mood after the event
  • Negative changes in behavior after the event
  • Persistence of symptoms for more than one month
  • Symptom-related distress or social functional impairment
  • Disturbance is not due to medication, substance abuse, or other illness

It is hoped that these changes in classification of PTSD will improve the ability of mental health professionals to accurately identify and treat PTSD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, getting treatment as soon as possible after Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms develop may prevent long-term disability.