Most people who experience a traumatic event will not develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, if someone experiences symptoms for longer than one month, or symptoms return after a long period of time, it's important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional.
The doctor will do a mental health assessment. This means they will ask about current symptoms, past history and family history. They may do a physical examination to check that there are no other reasons for the symptoms.
For PTSD to be diagnosed, the symptoms need to be severe enough to interfere with your ability to function at work, socially or at home. A full diagnosis cannot be made until at least 6 months after the trauma.
Often a diagnosis can come as a relief for someone who has been suffering debilitating symptoms because it provides an explanation and a basis for beginning treatment.
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Last reviewed: November 2018