Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a serious accident or a terrorist act. Prior to 2020, it was often attributed mostly to the military or police force, but now we’re understanding more about the disorder and how frequently it happens. Being a victim of a car accident or witnessing strangers getting shot can cause symptoms of PTSD for years in the victims. Watching a loved one die of COVID-19 has also increased PTSD diagnoses. In the United States, an estimated 7.7 million people suffer from PTSD. Additionally, approximately eight percent of the total population of the U.S. are prone to developing it in the future without significant preventive interventions.
Since the pandemic, there have been such an increase in PTSD symptoms that specific categories of PTSD have been established. If you’ve witnessed trauma, been close with someone who experienced trauma, or lived through a life-threatening situation, you may have experienced one of these five types of PTSD.
1. Normal stress response. This response happens before PTSD begins but experiencing it doesn’t always mean you will get PTSD. This response can feel like a panic attack or an intense reaction to a stressful event but is managed with the support of loved ones, several sessions of therapy, and time. Usually, the condition resolves within two to three weeks.
2. Acute Stress Disorder. This reaction does not follow the same pattern as PTSD, but it happens after an event that felt life-threatening. Acute Stress Disorder may happen after witnessing a shooting at a public venue, natural disaster, or a domestic fight. When left untreated, acute stress disorder can develop into a full-blown case of PTSD. This type is treated best with group support therapy, medications, and counseling.
3. Uncomplicated PTSD. This response happens when there is one major traumatic event. It is considered one of the less complicated forms of PTSD to treat, since the event can be pinpointed. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks to the event, and irritability which affects personal relationships. It is treatable with medications and therapy and quite common.
4. Complex PTSD. Complex PTSD is caused by multiple traumatic events. It is most often seen with victims of domestic abuse or medical staff who have seen horrific deaths in a short time- period. Treating this type is more complicated and there may be signs of behavioral disorders, such as intense rage, avoidance, depression, or panic. Complex PTSD is usually treated with the help of a mental health team in a facility where they get daily therapy, medication monitoring, and emotional support around the clock. Complex PTSD is not manageable without a team of mental health experts; no matter how much you care for your loved one, they need professional help.
5. Comorbid PTSD. This type of PTSD is a blanket term for people who have more than one mental health concern. They usually have an underlying substance abuse, which is often used to calm the symptoms. To treat it successfully, the individual must work through both the substance abuse and the underlying traumatic event. Numbing yourself with drugs and alcohol will not cure the symptoms and will only make the prognosis worse.
There has been a significant increase in people using mental health facilities within the past year, and many of these people are suffering from PTSD. If you feel like you can’t let go of a traumatic event you experienced or witnessed, the first step is to see your family physician. Discuss your symptoms and allow them to refer you to a mental health professional. PTSD doesn’t go away on its own, but with health care interventions you will be able to grieve and let go of the fear and thoughts that control you. Your life depends on you taking the first step to get help.