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6 Types Of PTSD – Their Symptoms & How To Diagnose 2023
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly called PTSD, is a multifaceted mental illness encompassing various types and symptoms. The condition is dire to anyone as it may result in substantial mental and physical health deterioration. So understanding the distinct manifestations and diagnostic approaches is crucial in providing practical mental health support.
Different types of PTSD exhibit unique characteristics and require specialized treatment methods. Multiple events, such as natural disasters or severe injuries, can trigger PTSD, leading to intrusive memories, negative thoughts, and physical reactions.
Recognizing these PTSD symptoms is vital for early intervention. Mental health professionals employ diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to assess and identify PTSD cases accurately. This piece will also examine available PTSD treatment, so keep reading to learn.
What Are The Common Types Of PTSD?
- Normal stress response.
- Acute stress disorder.
- Uncomplicated PTSD.
- Complex PTSD.
- Comorbid PTSD.
- Dissociative PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
Of all the mental health disorders, PTSD may very well be one the most prevalent. According to the World Health Organization, it is part of the top eight mental health disorders, alongside depression and bipolar disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after you experience or witness one or multiple traumatic events. PTSD symptoms vary but generally include the four types of trauma responses: fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. Fight refers to a defensive response involving aggression. Flight involves avoiding or escaping the threat. Freeze refers to immobility or detachment. And fawn is a submissive response seeking to please others as a survival strategy.
These can manifest as intrusive memories of the traumatic event, such as flashbacks or nightmares. You may also experience avoidance of triggers associated with the trauma and negative changes in thoughts or mood. Lastly, you may also experience heightened arousal or suicidal thoughts.
Diagnosing PTSD involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional using criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. If you experience PTSD symptoms, seeking support from licensed therapists is best. Mental health professionals who specialize in other trauma-related disorders may also help.
Common Types Of PTSD & Their Symptoms
The most common PTSD types are:
Normal Stress Response
Normal stress responses are a natural reaction to a traumatic event such as a severe accident, injury, or illness. A normal stress response can be typical of car accidents. It involves temporary feelings of distress, anxiety, and heightened arousal. This response is normal as it helps you process and cope with the traumatic experience. It may resolve independently within a few weeks, and you may not develop full-blown PTSD.
However, if the symptoms persist or worsen over time, it may indicate the need for further evaluation and possible diagnosis of a specific type of PTSD.
Acute Stress Disorder, i.e., ASD
Acute stress disorder, or ASD, is a type of PTSD that occurs within one month of the traumatic event. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 6%-33% may develop PTSD after a month.
Its symptoms may include intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of reminders, negative mood, and heightened arousal. You may be diagnosed with ASD when these symptoms persist within one month of a traumatic experience. You should seek help if you notice the following:
- Forget essential parts of the traumatic event.
- Have an altered version of reality.
- Have angry outbursts.
- Have difficulty concentrating or focusing.
Many would assume the term uncomplicated implies the condition is not dire. Conversely, the term indicates that the symptoms are primarily related to the traumatic event and its aftermath. And it is without the added complexity that may arise from prolonged or repeated trauma. Due to the limited research on this exact PTSD kind, it’s easy to dissolve it into the other subtypes.
Uncomplicated PTSD symptoms include intrusive memories, avoidance of triggers, adverse changes in thoughts and mood, and increased reactivity.
Complex PTSD involves additional symptoms beyond those found in uncomplicated PTSD. These other symptoms are often associated with long-term exposure to traumatic experiences.
Common reactions include difficulties with emotion regulation, distorted self-identity, relationship problems, and somatic symptoms. Somatic symptoms related to PTSD can consist of physical manifestations such as chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, muscle tension, and other physical discomforts without apparent medical cause.
Comorbidity And PTSD
Comorbid and PTSD refer to co-occurring disorders with other mental health conditions. If you have PTSD, you may be prone to experience comorbidity with conditions such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety disorders, or antisocial personality disorder. Comorbid conditions can complicate the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, requiring a comprehensive assessment by a mental health caregiver.
Dissociative symptoms, alongside the core symptoms of PTSD, characterize dissociative PTSD. Dissociation is a disconnection or detachment from your thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity.
In the dissociative subtype of PTSD, you may experience symptoms such as feeling detached from oneself and the surrounding environment or experiencing gaps in memory related to the traumatic event. These dissociative disorders can significantly impact your perception of reality and overall functioning.
How To Diagnose PTSD
Here are the steps that trained healthcare providers may use to diagnose your PTSD and the type you may be suffering from
Diagnosing PTSD begins with recognizing the presence of symptoms associated with the condition. Trained health professionals evaluate your symptoms’ frequency, duration, and severity. Then they evaluate the impact on daily functioning and overall well-being.
Doctors will also diagnose PTSD using specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V-TR. The DSM-V-TR provides a standardized set of symptoms and criteria clinicians use to assess and diagnose mental health conditions.
The criteria for PTSD include repeated exposure to a traumatic event and the presence of specific intrusive thoughts. Assessing the depressive moods, arousal symptoms, and duration of these symptoms are all part of diagnosing PTSD.
A health professional, typically a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, conducts a comprehensive assessment. The assessment involves gathering information about your trauma history, symptoms, and their impact on various areas of your life. It may include structured interviews, questionnaires, and discussions to understand your experiences and symptoms.
A healthcare provider on your case will consider other possible explanations for your PTSD-like symptoms during differential diagnosis. This process involves ruling out other mental health conditions or medical conditions that may present similar symptoms.
This thorough assessment helps ensure an accurate diagnosis of PTSD. Differential diagnosis may involve collaboration with other healthcare providers, such as physicians or specialists.
Collaboration And Evaluation
Diagnosing PTSD requires collaboration and evaluation among a multidisciplinary team of mental health professionals. This collaborative approach ensures that all aspects of the individual’s symptoms and experiences are considered, leading to an accurate diagnosis.
The team may include therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists with expertise in trauma and PTSD.
Coping With PTSD
Treating PTSD takes time, meaning you might have to live with the nasty symptoms for a while before they subside. Here are different types of trauma therapy to help you cope.
- Trauma therapy: Individual and group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and trauma-focused therapy. These can help address symptoms, process chronic trauma, and develop coping strategies.
- Medication management: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may help reduce anxiety, depression, and other associated symptoms by increasing the amount of serotonin available to the nervous system.
- Self-care practices: Practicing mindfulness, exercise, and relaxation techniques may help.
- Establishing supportive relationships: Seek support from trusted friends, family members, or support groups. Connecting with others can help reduce symptoms and feelings of isolation.
- Managing triggers: Develop strategies to cope with triggers, such as grounding techniques, deep breathing exercises, or relaxing activities.
- Healthy lifestyle choices: Prioritize healthy habits, including regular sleep patterns, a nutritious diet, and avoiding substance abuse.
- Educating yourself: Learn about PTSD and its effects, including specific symptoms and coping strategies. This knowledge empowers you to understand your experiences better.
- Establishing safety: This may involve setting boundaries, reducing exposure to triggers, and engaging in self-compassion and positive emotions.
- Patience and self-compassion: Recognize that healing takes time and be patient with yourself during recovery.
Remember that when you experience PTSD symptoms, coping strategies vary for everyone. Working closely with a mental healthcare provider can provide personalized guidance for developing effective coping mechanisms and promoting long-term recovery.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the different types of PTSD and their symptoms is crucial. Accurate diagnosing leads to finding effective ways to treat PTSD, and this applies to all kinds of PTSD types we have mentioned above. Whether it’s typical stress disorders or comorbid PTSD, each subtype presents unique challenges and requires tailored intervention.
You can navigate the impacts of PTSD and increase well-being by first recognizing the indicators. Next, get your PTSD examined by professional help and implement coping methods. It is critical to remember that recovery is possible. And that you can reclaim control of your life and move forward into a brighter future with the correct assistance and resources.
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