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The Main 5 Types of PTSD (And How They Work)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who’ve witnessed a traumatic event. However, only surfaces after the initial event has taken place, sometimes being delayed for weeks or even months before it surfaces as the result of triggers. Some of the most common symptoms include a sense of isolation, disturbed Dreamtime, flashbacks and feelings of guilt (survivor’s guilt) amongst others. But what isn’t as widely known is that there are five separate categories of PTSD. Here is rundown of what they mean and how they can affect you.

Normal Stress Response

The normal stress response occurs in otherwise healthy adults who’ve endured a one-off traumatic event during their recent past. This usually includes experiencing bad memories, emotional numbing, dissociation and isolation from loved ones. Although the symptoms aren’t be brushed off, this form of the condition can often be overcome relatively quickly in a matter of weeks.

Acute Stress Response

Acute stress disorder is a more severe form of PTSD and is characterised by panic reactions, cognitive issues, dissociation, insomnia, distrust, and the inability to maintain basic self-care, work and relationships. This type of the condition is rarely found in people with single traumas unless they were involved in a catastrophic event. In this case, the treatment would include immediate support, getting to a place of safety (away from the incident), medication to provide relief from anxiety as well as psychotherapeutic intervention.

Uncomplicated PTSD

Uncomplicated PTSD is the result of experiencing a singular traumatic event, as opposed to multiple or repeated instances of the same trauma. It’s the easiest of the five types to treat and typically responds well to psychotherapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It’s quite rare that medication would be needed in such cases. Symptoms of uncomplicated PTSD include a strong aversion to triggering situations, irritability, mood swings, and change in perception of current relationships and the feeling of safety.

Comorbid PTSD

PTSD that is comorbid with other symptoms is actually a fairly common form of the condition. It’s not unusual for PTSD to be associated with at least one other psychiatric disorder such as depression, substance abuse, panic disorders and other anxiety disorders. You will normally see the best results in terms of recovery when both the PTSD and other disorder(s) are treated together rather than in isolation. The best example of this is when alcohol and substance abuse is one of the comorbid conditions presenting alongside.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is one (sometimes referred to as “Disorder of Extreme Stress”), is the most severe form of the condition, requiring the most support of the five sub-types. It presents in individuals who’ve endured intense and prolonged periods of abuse which could range from verbal, physical, sexual and all three combined in the worst cases. These cases usually occur during childhood in instances where there is a dysfunctional family unit. People who have complex PTSD will often be diagnosed with borderline or anti-social personality disorder. Some of the most notable behavioural difficulties include impulsivity, eating disorders, substance abuse, emotional issues and cognitive problems.


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