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In order for a clinician to treat PTSD, they must be able to recognize it. Here you will find information on DSM Diagnosis, Conceptualizing PTSD, Associated Features, and Comorbid Disorders

DSM Diagnosis

In 1980, DSM-III delineated distinct criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD. The diagnosis of ASD was added to the DSM-IV in 1995 to distinguish individuals with PTSD like symptoms that lasted less than 1 month from persons who experienced milder or more transient difficulties following a stressor.

DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic Criteria for Acute Stress Disorder (DSM-IV-TR code 308.3)
Click here for the full APA diagnostic criteria of ASD

DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (DSM-IV-TR code 309.81)
Click here for the full APA diagnostic criteria of PTSD

Conceptualizing PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD can be grouped into three primary symptom clusters and have been often refferred to as the "triad"

- 1) Re-experince
- 2) Avoidance
- 3) Arousal

Lang (2000) suggested a mnemonic device of DREAMS to aid clinicans in determining a diagnosis of PTSD:

- Detachment
- Re-experiencing the event
- Event had emotional effects
- Avoidance
- Month in duration
- Sympathetic hyperactivity or hyper vigalance


Associated Features

In addition to the above diagnositic criteria, PTSD has a number of other possible symptoms or associated features such as guilt and/or interpersonal problems.

Interpersonal problems are common among those exposed to a trauma with an interpersonal element (i.e abuse), and the associated symptoms are often referred to as the Intepersonal Constellation. Theses symptoms may include:

  • Impaired affect modulation
  • Self-destructive and impulsive behavior
  • Dissociative symptoms
  • Somatic complaints
  • Feelings of: ineffectiveness, shame, despair, hoplessness, "permanently damaged", constant "threat"
  • Loss of beliefs
  • Hostility
  • Social withdrawal
  • Social impairment
  • Personality Change


Comorbid Disorders

The follow disorders have be noted to often preced, follow or emerge concurrently with PTSD

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Substance Related Disorders
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Obessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Specific Phobia
  • Bipolar Disorder

(APA, 2000)


This site is intended for those interested in learning more about PTSD and its treatment. It is meant to serve only as an overview of the current research and practice, and is not meant to be an exhaustive resource. This site was created by Jenn Andrus, a Masters degree candidate in Clinical Health Psychology at Appalachian State University, for partial course credit in PSY 5715: Psychotherapy Interventions II.

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