Here is a quick and easy test to assess whether you might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The test is called the “PCL-5.” You answer a series of questions by identifying the severity to which you experience certain stressors. When answering the questions, keep in mind the worst event or collection of events experienced and how much you have been bothered by that problem in the past month. There are five answers to choose from for each question, with each answer assigned a numeric value:
Not at all = 0
A little bit = 1
Moderately = 2
Quite a bit = 3
Extremely = 4
Here are the questions. In the past month, how much were you bothered by:
- Repeated, disturbing, and unwanted memories of the stressful experience?
- Repeated, disturbing dreams of the stressful experience?
- Suddenly feeling or acting as if the stressful experience were actually happening again (as if you were actually back there reliving it)?
- Feeling very upset when something reminded you of the stressful experience?
- Having strong physical reactions when something reminded you of the stressful experience (for example, heart pounding, trouble breathing, sweating)?
- Avoiding memories, thoughts, or feelings related to the stressful experience?
- Avoiding external reminders of the stressful experience (for example, people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations)?
- Trouble remembering important parts of the stressful experience?
- Having strong negative beliefs about yourself, other people, or the world (for example, having thoughts such as: I am bad, there is something seriously wrong with me, no one can be trusted, the world is completely dangerous)?
- Blaming yourself or someone else for the stressful experience or what happened after it?
- Having strong negative feelings such as fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame?
- Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy?
- Feeling distant or cut off from other people?
- Trouble experiencing the positive feelings (for example, being unable to feel happiness or have loving feelings for people close to you)?
- Irritable behavior, angry outbursts, or acting aggressively?
- Taking too many risks or doing things that could cause you harm?
- Being “superalert” or watchful or on guard?
- Feeling jumpy or easily startled?
- Having difficulty concentrating?
- Trouble falling or staying asleep?
To score your test, user the numeric value (as set out above) for each answer. Also, it is helpful to separate questions and answers into different groups. So, score questions 1 through 5 as one group. Then, score questions 6 and 7 as the second group. For the third group, score questions 8 through 14. And finally, for the fourth group, score questions 15 through 20. Finally, add together all groups to reach your total score (with your total score indicating the severity of your PTSD).
The reason why it is helpful to group together certain questions and answers when tallying your score is because the PCL-5 is modeled directly off of the PTSD criteria developed by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-5 (the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.)
Some readers–particularly veterans who became civilian contractors after their service–might recognize the PCL-5. The National Center for PTSD established by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs regularly uses the PCL-5 as a self-reporting measure to assess PTSD. This is what the National Center for PTSD says about the PCL-5:
Administration and Scoring
The PCL-5 is a self-report measure that can be completed by patients in a waiting room prior to a session or by participants as part of a research study. It takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete. Interpretation of the PCL-5 should be made by a clinician.
The PCL-5 can be scored in different ways:
- A total symptom severity score (range – 0-80) can be obtained by summing the scores for each of the 20 items.
- DSM-5 symptom cluster severity scores can be obtained by summing the scores for the items within a given cluster, i.e., cluster B (items 1-5), cluster C (items 6-7), cluster D (items 8-14), and cluster E (items 15-20).
- A provisional PTSD diagnosis can be made by treating each item rated as 2 = “Moderately” or higher as a symptom endorsed, then following the DSM-5 diagnostic rule which requires at least: 1 B item (questions 1-5), 1 C item (questions 6-7), 2 D items (questions 8-14), 2 E items (questions 15-20).
- Preliminary validation work is sufficient to make initial cut-point suggestions, but this information may be subject to change. … A PCL-5 cut-point of 38 appears to be a reasonable value to propose until further psychometric work is available.
Characteristics of a respondent’s setting should be considered when using PCL-5 severity scores to make a provisional diagnosis. The goal of assessment also should be considered. A lower cutoff should be considered when screening or when it is desirable to maximize detection of possible cases. A higher cutoff should be considered when attempting to make a provisional diagnosis or to minimize false positives.
If you were a civilian/military contractor working overseas in a combat zone, or in a locale where you were exposed to violence, injury, or death, you may have PTSD. As always, please consult a mental health professional if you feel like you may be exhibiting the symptoms of PTSD.
Contact Jon Robinson at Strongpoint Law Firm if you need help securing medical and indemnity benefits as a result of a psychological injury you experienced while working as a civilian/military contractor. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits paid pursuant to the Defense Base Act.