PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a Mental Disorder that is caused by experiencing a traumatic event. When defining PTSD, a “traumatic event” is any event where the person experiences shocking circumstances that conflict with their understanding of what is right and good. Events that cause PTSD can include actual or threatened abuse, death, physical injury, sexual abuse/violence, accidents, situations that cause extreme fear, and many more.

Depending on the PTSD severity, PTSD can have a huge affect on the ability of an individual to function in normal life. Symptoms of PTSD can include fear, the inability to concentrate, depression, anti-social behaviors, violent outbursts, anger, nightmares, insomnia, and many more. The symptoms of PTSD can be constant, worsen over time, improve over time, or can come and go.

Like many mental illnesses, the exact symptoms of PTSD can be very different from one person to the next. Some symptoms of PTSD can show up immediately following the traumatic event, but most PTSD symptoms often develop over a period of time. This can be a few weeks and months to many years after the initial traumatic event.

Because of the naturally traumatic experiences that combat provides, many military members suffer from PTSD. Being exposed to a traumatic event alone, however, is not enough to be diagnosed with PTSD. There are many requirements that a condition must meet before it can be considered PTSD.

The following table lists the different requirements that must be met before a condition can be diagnosed as PTSD.


Note: These requirements are strictly for assigning Military Disability Ratings to PTSD for Military Disability. Other organizations, psychologists, etc., may diagnose PTSD on different standards. Regardless, the PTSD requirements below are commonly accepted overall as a good general guideline for diagnosing PTSD.

PTSD Requirement Categories

PTSD Requirement

(the traumatic event)

It must be proven that the individual was exposed to a traumatic event in one of the following ways:
– Experiencing the event himself
– Witnessing the event happen to others
– Learning of a traumatic event happening to a close friend or family member. In the case of death, whether actual or threatened, the event must have been violent or accidental to qualify. A family member dying after an illness of 5 months is not considered a traumatic event since there was time to emotionally prepare.
– Experiencing regular or severe exposure to the effects of a traumatic event. This would include things like being a first responder to the scene of a bombing, etc.

Intrusive Recollection

The individual must regularly remember or re-live the event in at least one of the following ways:
– Thoughts, memories, and images of the event come to mind unwanted on a regular basis, causing emotional and mental distress.
– Nightmares of the event occur on a regular basis.
– There are occasions when the individual feels or acts like they are re-experiencing or re-living the event. These experiences include hallucinations and intense flashback episodes, and can be accompanied by violent or irrational behavior.
– Emotional and mental distress that occurs whenever the individual is exposed to things that remind him of the event. This could be movies, music, sounds, smells, etc.
– Physical distress and reactions that occur whenever the individual is exposed to things that remind him of the event. These physical reactions could include sweats/chills, sensitivity to sounds, increased heart rate and mental processes, etc.


The individual must constantly try to avoid reminders of the event in at least one of the following ways (these behaviors can be conscious—he knows he's doing it—or subconscious—he doesn’t know he's doing it):
– Try to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the event or similar events.
– Try to avoid places, activities or people that remind him of the event.

Negative Alterations in Cognition and Mood

The individual must show decreased mental and emotional changes, like amnesia, depression, etc., in at least two of the following ways:
– Inability to remember parts of the event. To qualify, this amnesia cannot be caused by physical triggers, like head injuries, or memory altering substances, like alcohol.
– Incorrect or skewed memories of the event that causes the individual to blame himself or others.
– Intense and long-lasting negative feelings about himself, others, or life in general. These feelings are often exaggerated, and include things like "Everyone lies", "I am a bad person", "You can never be safe", etc.
– Constant severe negative emotions like guilt, fear, anger, etc.
– Doesn’t feel interested in or want to participate in significant activities, like celebrating birthdays—such activities no longer seem important.
– Feels detached from others—not able to connect emotionally with them.
– Not able to feel or show various positive feelings like love, contentment, happiness, etc.


The individual must show signs of hyper-arousal. This is when the senses are fully functioning and adrenaline is released into the body. This often occurs because of worry, a need to feel prepared, feeling unsafe, etc. At least two of the following must be present:
– Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
– Difficulty concentrating.
– Hyper-vigilance (being extremely and overly aware of things around you, often watching out for any threats).
– Startling very easily. Being startled or caught off guard can also result in a physical violent response.
– Regularly feeling angry and being irritable. Losing his temper easily, often with no obvious reason, that results in physical or verbal aggression. This aggression can be aimed at people or objects (throwing a computer out the window, etc.).
– Behaving in a reckless or self-destructive manor. This can include taking unnecessary physical risks, binging on substances, sabotaging any positive opportunities, etc.


All the symptoms noted above must be present for more than one month.

Functional significance

The symptoms must significantly affect the individual’s social or occupational functioning. It could be that they cause stress within the family, the inability to concentrate properly on work assignments, etc. This is left up to the interpretation of the psychiatrist who is diagnosing the condition or the Rating Authorities who are determining the rating for Military Disability.


Once the condition fulfills all the requirements for PTSD, it can then be officially diagnosed as PTSD by a mental health professional for the purpose of Military Disability.

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, find out what Military Disability Rating you should receive for your PTSD on our Mental Disorders page.

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