Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is being talked about more and more, and general awareness of the condition is growing. Many people automatically associate PTSD with certain professions, such as war veterans, firefighters, or ER doctors. However, anyone can experience PTSD and it’s important to be aware of it. From car accidents to experiencing a natural disaster, traumatic events occur all the time and can happen to anyone. For some people, the onset of PTSD may take just one traumatic event, but other people are exposed to many different traumatic events throughout their lifetime or even in a short period of time.
Recently, some high-profile people such as celebrities have come forward and talked about their experience with PTSD, shedding light on the fact that you don’t have to necessarily be in combat or have a certain job in order to experience trauma and then experience certain symptoms afterward such as anxiety and an inability to sleep. However, something that many people still are not aware of is that there are different kinds of PTSD that are each classified differently based on the type of reaction that someone has to a terrifying or traumatic event. Here are the three main types of PTSD.
This type of PTSD is unique because it involves more than just one mental condition. It’s also the type of PTSD that’s most common because it’s typical for people experiencing PTSD to have multiple conditions, including panic disorder, depression, substance abuse issues, and more. Comorbid PTSD is also known as “co-occuring disorder” since it happens at the same time as other psychiatric disorders.
Unfortunately, many people who experience comorbid PTSD try to treat it on their own, which fuels their substance abuse issues. It’s common for people to turn to drugs and alcohol, but a therapist is often a great option to navigate the difficulties of comorbid PTSD. There are even online therapy providers like BetterHelp that match people with a licensed professional.
What makes this type of PTSD unique is that the person experiencing it has witnessed more than one traumatic event. Typically, complex PTSD occurs in individuals who experience an unexpected loss of a loved one, domestic violence, or abuse. Veterans also tend to have complex PTSD, as they were exposed to constant traumatic events during their war experience. Symptoms of this type of PTSD include mood swings, flashbacks, nightmares, and irritability. Treatment from a licensed professional often takes a different approach than treatment for other types. This is because individuals experiencing complex PTSD often are impulsive, aggressive, and abusing substances.
People diagnosed with uncomplicated PTSD are classified with this type of PTSD because their symptoms can be connected to a single, significant traumatizing event instead of multiple events. Typically, the single event is something like a natural disaster (a fire, flood, tornado, etc) or an accident. Common symptoms include nightmares and flashbacks. While treatment of uncomplicated PTSD may be more straightforward as the others since there are less factors involved, this doesn’t mean that uncomplicated PTSD is any less severe or less challenging to love with.
It’s important to understand the different types of PTSD so if you think you are experiencing PTSD, you may have a better idea of what you’re going through and can explain to your therapist or doctor, leading to more targeted and successful treatment. It can also help you be there for any friends or loved ones who you know are experiencing PTSD; after all, there is a big difference between experiencing one traumatic event or multiple.
It’s also important to be aware of acute stress disorder, a disorder that often is the precursor to PTSD. While a stress response to events such as illnesses, accidents, and pressure is normal, in some cases a stress response becomes a stress disorder. Usually, people who experience acute stress disorder have witnessed an event that made them question their own mortality, such as a natural disaster, death of a close loved one, or near-death experience. If the acute stress disorder lasts for more than a month, this becomes PTSD.
If you experience acute stress disorder, be sure to watch out for symptoms and keep track of how long these symptoms last. Symptoms include stomach pain, heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, sweating, and headaches. Luckily, acute stress and PTSD can be treated and you can find help for what you are experiencing.