What are the Different Types of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

different types of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What are the Different Types of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after you are exposed to something traumatic. You can develop PTSD in childhood, during your teen years, or in adulthood. When someone struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms can be incredibly difficult to manage without professional treatment.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 8% of women and 4% of men will develop PTSD at some point in their lifetime.[1]

Post-traumatic stress disorder may cause someone to experience flashbacks or nightmares about a traumatic experience, drastic changes in mood, difficulty sleeping, impulsive behavior, and more. While many people with PTSD struggle with similar symptoms, there are four different types of the condition to be aware of. The types of post-traumatic stress disorder include uncomplicated PTSD, dissociative PTSD, complex PTSD, and comorbid PTSD. 

Understanding the Different Types of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect each person differently, as this condition can cause a wide range of symptoms. However, different types of PTSD can indicate what kind of symptoms you will struggle with. 

Uncomplicated PTSD

While many people develop post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing several traumatic events, uncomplicated PTSD stems from one singular event. It is important to note that any stressful life event can be traumatic to an individual, including common experiences like divorce or medical conditions and severe situations like assault or abuse.

Someone with uncomplicated PTSD will not have any other mental health conditions, or substance use disorders, and have only experienced one truly traumatic event that led to the development of their post-traumatic stress disorder.

The symptoms of uncomplicated PTSD include:

  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Avoidance behaviors such as staying away from people, places, or things that remind them of their trauma
  • Mood changes that disrupt their lives 
  • Changes in cognitive processing 
  • Slowed reaction times 
  • Changes in relationships 
  • Nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event 

Dissociative PTSD

Dissociative post-traumatic stress disorder is not an official diagnosis, however, it is a way for people to describe the type of PTSD symptoms they experience. With this kind of PTSD, people struggle with the common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as dissociative symptoms. 

For example, when someone with dissociative PTSD is exposed to something that triggers a traumatic memory, they might disconnect from their thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity.[2]

Symptoms of dissociative PTSD include:

  • Nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Changes in mood 
  • Sleep issues 
  • Changes in relationships 
  • Avoidance of things that remind them of the trauma 
  • Depersonalization and derealization when a trigger is experienced 

Complex PTSD

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD develops when a person has been exposed to multiple traumatic events. It is important to note that these events could be separate or related. Typically, C-PTSD is the most severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder and can lead to intense symptoms that significantly impair a person’s life.[3]

Someone with complex PTSD will experience the common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder on a more severe level. Symptoms unique to this type of PTSD include:

  • Verbal or physical aggression 
  • Impulsive behaviors like risky sex or substance abuse 
  • Significant mood swings 

Oftentimes, people with C-PTSD are misdiagnosed because of the severity of their symptoms. People with this condition might originally be diagnosed with conditions like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and dissociative disorders.

Comorbid PTSD

The last type of post-traumatic stress disorder is comorbid PTSD. When you have a comorbid condition, this means you struggle with more than one mental health condition at the same time. Someone with comorbid PTSD might have another mental illness or a substance use disorder

Common comorbid conditions associated with PTSD include:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Specific phobias 

According to the VA, “Most people with PTSD—about 80%—have one or more additional mental health diagnoses.”[4]

When you have comorbid PTSD, you must receive treatment for all of your conditions at the same time. In other words, you will need to attend a dual-diagnosis treatment program to ensure that you fully recover. 

Find Help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

No matter what type of PTSD you have, you should always seek professional treatment. At Florida Recovery Group, our trauma-informed mental health treatment services are designed to help you overcome your post-traumatic stress disorder and take back control over your life. Our team of mental health therapists and medical professionals will evaluate, diagnose and treat the root cause with compassion and empathy.

To learn more about our treatment programs or to get started with a risk-free assessment, please contact us today. 

References:

  1.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): How Common is PTSD in Adults, Retrieved November 2023 From https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp
  2.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Dissociative Subtype of PTSD, Retrieved November 2023 From https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/dissociative_subtype.asp
  3. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Complex PTSD, Retrieved November 2023 From https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/complex_ptsd.asp
  4. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Co-Occurring Conditions, Retrieved November 2023 From https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/cooccurring/index.asp