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Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5


The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5) is a five-item screen that was designed for use in primary care settings. The measure begins with an item designed to assess whether the respondent has had any exposure to traumatic events. If a respondent denies exposure, the PC-PTSD-5 is complete with a score of 0. However, if a respondent indicates that they have experienced a traumatic event over the course of their life, the respondent is instructed to respond to five additional yes/no questions about how that trauma exposure has affected them over the past month.


The PC-PTSD-5 was designed to identify respondents with probable PTSD. Those screening positive require further assessment, preferably with a structured interview such as the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5). Administration of a clinical interview is not always possible due to time and personnel requirements. In these cases, it is recommended that additional assessment is conducted using a validated self-report measure. Specifically, the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) is a psychometrically sound self-report questionnaire that can be used for this purpose.



Administration and Scoring

Preliminary results from validation studies suggest that a cut-point of 3 on the PC-PTSD-5 (e.g., respondent answers "yes" to any 3 of 5 questions about how the traumatic event(s) have affected them over the past month) is optimally sensitive to probable PTSD. Optimizing sensitivity minimizes false negative screen results. Using a cut-point of 4 is considered optimally efficient. Optimizing efficiency balances false positive and false negative results. As additional research findings on the PC-PTSD-5 are published, updated recommendations for cut-point scores as well as psychometric data will be made available.

Interpretation of the PCL-5 should be made by a clinician. 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 cut-point score should be considered when screening or when it is desirable to maximize detection of possible cases. A higher cut-point score should be considered when attempting to make a provisional diagnosis or to minimize false positives.


If a respondent indicates a trauma history – experiencing a traumatic event over the course of their life – the respondent is instructed to answer five additional yes/no questions (see below) about how that trauma has affected them over the past month.

In the past month, have you...

  • Had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to?
  • Tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)?
  • Been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?
  • Felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings?
  • Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused?


Prins, A., Bovin, M. J., Kimerling, R., Kaloupek, D. G., Marx, B. P., Pless Kaiser, A., & Schnurr, P. P. (2015). The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5).  


Prins, A., Bovin, M. J., Smolenski, D. J., Mark, B. P., Kimerling, R., Jenkins-Guarnieri, M. A., Kaloupek, D. G., Schnurr, P. P., Pless Kaiser, A., Leyva, Y. E., & Tiet, Q. Q. (2016). The Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5): Development and evaluation within a Veteran primary care sample. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 31, 1206-1211. doi:10.1007/s11606-016-3703-5


No manual exists. The PC-PTSD-5 is used in the same way as other self report scales and is self-explanatory. For advice on interpretation refer to key references.


National Center for PTSD Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5). Please visit the NCPTSD website to download a copy of the PC-PTSD-5.