What Is the Difference Between PTS and PTSD?

What is the Difference Between PTS and PTSD?

What is the Difference Between PTS and PTSD?

Many people can confuse post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  They share a similar name and there are some similarities; however, these two disorders are different in symptom presentation, duration, and treatment.  Both PTS and PTSD involve feelings of fearfulness, avoidance, nervousness, anxiety, and nightmares.  Here are some of the differences.

Post-traumatic Stress
PTS is a normal response to a traumatic or stressful event.  Some people involved in a car accident or who might experience complications from a surgery can exhibit symptoms of PTS.  The fight-or-flight response is activated with PTS; our bodies tense and we breathe faster.  The activation of this response is normal and allows us to deal with the stressor through normal reactions.

Symptoms of PTS include rapid heart rate, sweating, or feeling afraid.  Once the stressful event has subsided, there could be some residual effects such as unpleasant dreams or avoiding any situation that resembles the stressful event.  These symptoms are usually short-lived and subside after a few days.  The stressful event does not cause any prolonged interference with activities of daily living such as working or going to school.  One positive outcome of PTS is that it might make someone more aware of how they behaved during the stressful event in order to alter their behavior.

Treatment is generally not required for PTS.  Symptoms will improve or subside on their own within a few days or a few weeks.  PTS is not a mental health disorder; however, if you exhibit symptoms of PTS that are not going away on their own or that are interfering with your daily life, you should seek treatment.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is diagnosable condition listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  A person who has experienced a traumatic event or who has witnessed an event where death or serious injury was involved, can develop PTSD.  It is important to note that not all people who experience a traumatic event or witness a negative event, develop PTSD.

PTSD symptoms include reliving a traumatic event over and over through flashbacks, nightmares, or obsessive thinking about the event.  People with PTSD might avoid situations that remind them of the event, feel nervous or on edge most of the time, and have negative emotions.  Some of these symptoms might sound like PTS; however, the difference is how long the symptoms last and how intense they are.  Symptoms of PTSD generally affect a person’s ability to complete activities of daily living.

There are many effective treatments for PTSD including medications, therapy, and group therapy.  Trauma-focused therapy is also an effective form of therapeutic intervention and is widely used.

Cottonwood Tucson offers a place of understanding, healing, and hope. Our residential treatment programs have gained international renown for an integrative approach to co-occurring disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling, know that treatment is available. Recovery is possible.
A new life is waiting.
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