What Are The Different Types Of PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder¹ (PTSD) is a condition that develops after someone has experienced a distressing or traumatic event. These events are typically scary, shocking, unpleasant, dangerous, or harmful.

Some people find it challenging to overcome such trauma. When someone struggles to cope for quite some time after the event, they could be diagnosed with PTSD.

Have you considered clinical trials for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What causes PTSD?

PTSD may start after someone experiences a traumatic event. However, not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD.

Traumatic events can cause physical harm, emotional harm, or both. Examples of these events include:

  • Accidents

  • Injuries

  • Natural disasters

  • Bullying 

  • Violence

  • Physical abuse

  • Sexual abuse

  • Terrorism 

  • War 

  • Death 

  • Health problems 

  • Separation

  • Loss

It’s normal to feel helpless or fearful after events such as these. However, when those feelings persist for a considerable time and affect various aspects of your life, it could be a sign of PTSD.

How common is PTSD?

According to the American Psychiatric Foundation², about 3.5% of adults in the United States experience PTSD yearly. Studies also show that one in 11 people is diagnosed with PTSD.

However, the reality is that these statistics could be much higher because many people do not seek medical advice for PTSD.

The National Comorbidity Survey Replication also showed that women are more likely to experience PTSD than men³. Additionally, PTSD is more prevalent in middle-aged people (45 to 59 years).

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD are pretty varied. Researchers have classified these symptoms into five main categories.

1. Re-experiencing symptoms

Re-experiencing symptoms describe the symptoms you encounter when it feels like you are reliving the traumatic event. These symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks (reliving the experience as if it was happening again)

  • Nightmares or upsetting dreams

  • Frightening thoughts

  • Distress that is triggered by thoughts, people, or objects that remind you of the event 

2. Avoidance symptoms

Avoidance symptoms are related to specific circumstances that you avoid because they quickly remind you of the trauma. People with PTSD may try avoiding:

  • Thinking about the event

  • Talking about the event

  • The place where the trauma happened or places that remind them of it

  • People who are related to the trauma or remind them of it

3. Arousal and reactivating symptoms

Arousal symptoms relate to being triggered by something that reminds you of the event. When triggered, you may experience particular emotions that feel out of the ordinary.

Symptoms include:

  • Being startled or frightened easily

  • Feeling tense

  • Feeling on edge

  • Feeling jittery

  • Feeling stressed or anxious

  • Having angry outbursts

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Difficulty eating

4. Cognition and mood-related symptoms

Cognition and mood symptoms are related to how PTSD affects how you think and feel. These symptoms include:

  • Difficulty remembering the traumatic event

  • Negative thoughts about yourself

  • Negative thoughts about the world

  • Feeling guilty or blaming yourself for the trauma

  • Finding past activities no longer enjoyable

  • Feeling detached from the world

  • Feeling alienated from family and friends

5. Somatic symptoms

PTSD may have a physical toll on your body. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea

  • Muscle tension

  • Body aches and pain

  • Disrupted endocrine function

  • Decreased immune function

  • Cardiovascular problems such as elevated heart rate

Diagnosing PTSD

When is PTSD diagnosed?

While symptoms can start within the first three months after the traumatic event, symptoms must be present for at least one month before a PTSD diagnosis can be made.

What are the criteria for diagnosis?

The criteria for PTSD diagnosis usually include the following:

  • Symptoms must have a severe impact on relationships

  • One or more re-experiencing symptoms

  • One or more avoidance symptoms

  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms

  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

What are the subcategories of PTSD?

There are three main subcategories of PTSD: simple PTSD, complex PTSD, and comorbid PTSD.

Simple PTSD

Simple PTSD, also called uncomplicated PTSD, is PTSD with no severe personality changes, dissociative symptoms, depression, or physical presentations of stress. The trauma experienced was also related to a single event and was not ongoing.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is more complicated to treat than simple PTSD because it relates to ongoing trauma. Complex PTSD typically occurs from trauma related to:

  • Physical abuse

  • Sexual abuse

  • Childhood abuse

  • Chronic spousal abuse

  • Combat exposure

People with complex PTSD are more likely to experience:

  • Personality changes

  • Self-destructive behavior

  • Impulsive behavior

  • Loss of identity

  • Social impairment

  • Physical manifestations of PTSD

  • Depression

  • Recurrent dissociative symptoms

Comorbid PTSD

Comorbid PTSD is when someone has PTSD alongside another mental illness, such as generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, or substance abuse. As a result, this can make treatment challenging because there is more than one issue present.

Treatment for PTSD

The main treatments that are used to treat PTSD are:

  • Medications like antidepressants

  • Psychotherapy, including exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring therapy

  • Talk therapy 

Regular appointments with a doctor or trusted healthcare professional are recommended to help you deal with PTSD symptoms.

Can you prevent PTSD?

Currently, there is no suitable preventative measure (yet) for PTSD. However, more studies⁴ are needed regarding possible interventions that are more personalized.

When to see a doctor

Regardless of whether you have PTSD, it’s always best to see a doctor if it feels like you are struggling to cope.

If you want to know which type of PTSD you have, you must also see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

The lowdown

PTSD of any type is a complex condition and affects each person differently. It’s always best to check in with your doctor regularly to stay on top of the symptoms of this condition.

Frequently asked questions

What is it like to have PTSD?

PTSD can feel overwhelming and distressing. It can also feel alienating if you do not have the proper support. Many people with PTSD struggle to cope. Thus, it’s always best to reach out for additional help.

Are there different types of PTSD?

PTSD has three subcategories: simple PTSD, complex PTSD, and comorbid PTSD.

Can PTSD be prevented?

Currently, there is no suitable prevention measure for PTSD. However, more research is now being conducted on its possible prevention.

How can you get help for PTSD?

The best thing you can do is to see a doctor for advice and treatment if necessary. Having a support person who is close to you can also help.

Have you considered clinical trials for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Discover which clinical trials you are eligible for

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