Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether distress after a personal tragedy/catastrophe is just a normal reaction to an unormal, upsetting life experience or becomes a symptom to something more serious. Most of the people exposed to a trauma are distressed over a timeperiod of weeks or month, they become anxious, may be depressed, some cannot deal with their daily responsibilities as before, they get easily upset. After a time they are again better able to function, and the symptoms will lessen. Some people however will continue to be profoundly affected by the trauma months or years later, and so develop PTSD.
Lots of instruments have been developed to diagnose and measure PTSD. There are two main categories: structured clinical interviews and self-report questionnaires. So an evaluation can take from half an hour to get an overview up to several hours (when the information f.e is needed for legal claims). This evaluation is usually carried out by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another trained mental health professional.
Overview over the most used assessments
United States Dep. Of Veteran Affairs, NCPTSD, 2008
The National Center for PTSD provides a catalogue of many assessments used to measure trauma exposure and PTSD. You will find lots of information about the scales and interviews, and the significance of each. You will not find the assessments themselves here (some can be purchased via website).
FAQs about PTSD Assessment: For Professionals
United States Dep.of Veteran Affairs, NCPTSD, 2009
A fact sheet that provides professionals/therapists with answers about the most common questions about PTSD-assessments.
Psychiatric Rating Scales for PTSD
A catalogue of the most used assessments, some as direct links, most of the assessments has to be purchased. Neurotransmitter.net
There are lots of assessments available, which should help to diagnose and measure PTSD-symptoms. Only some of these assessments are available for free, most of them have to be purchased. Specially the structured clinical interviews are thought to be used only by clinicians. Therefore we present here a list of the most common assessments just with names.
- CAPS – Clinician Administered PTSD-Scale, “gold-standard”, 30-item structured interview, to be administered by clinicians/professionals, corresponding to the DSM-IV
- SCID PTSD Module – Structured Clinical Interview DSM-IV / PTSD-module. Semistructured interview, to be administered by professionals/clinicians. Single item trauma event history query.
- MPSS-SR – modified PTSD symptom scale. 17-item self-report measure, assesses the 17 DSM-symptoms of PTSD.
- M-PTSD – Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD. 35-item self-report measure that assesses combat-related PTSD in veteran populations.
- MMPI-2 – trauma-spec. subscales – Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 2, with possibilities in addition to the diagnoses of personality to look after PTSD-symptoms/severity.
- Trauma Symptom Check-list 40
TSC is limited to professionals (should not be used as self-test). “The TSC-40 is a research measure that evaluates symptomatology in adults associated with childhood or adult traumatic experiences. It measures aspects of posttraumatic stress and other symptom clusters found in some traumatized individuals. It does not measure all 17 criteria of PTSD, and should not be used as a complete measure of that construct.” – John Briere, Marsha Runt.