Many times post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder are used interchangeably. Though they have overlapping symptoms, they are two different conditions. Both conditions are associated with feeling afraid, nervous, avoiding activity or places that are a remembrance of a traumatic event, and nightmares. The difference becomes significant with the intensity of the symptoms, the duration, and the treatment.
Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)
When someone experiences a traumatic or stressful event, it is common for them to have PTS. Common life events such as car accidents can trigger PTS, as well as more uncommon occurrences like kidnapping, robberies, or military combat. These occurrences generate our bodies “fight-or-flight” response which helps the body prepare to deal with the challenge it is facing. The brain tells our bodies to tense the muscles, breathe faster, and pump more blood when it is under stress. PTS is considered to be a normal reaction and not a mental illness due to the “fight-or-flight” response being considered as a normal reflex.
Symptoms and Behaviors
Some symptoms of post-traumatic stress are increased heart rate, shakiness, sweating, and a sense of nervousness or fear. After a stressful event, people will avoid participating in the event again. Some cases experience nightmares about the experience or there will be flashbacks that cause nervousness. At first, when people get unpleasant memories, symptoms of PTS can be intense. The symptoms can subside after a few days and usually don’t cause prolong interference in your life. PTS experience can often make people behave more carefully when faced with potential dangers.
Treatment for PTS isn’t necessarily required since it is not a mental disorder. However, if the symptoms are troubling, it is best to seek out advice from a healthcare provider. A professional can better help you find ways to cope with the experience and can prevent reckless behaviors.
The determination of differences between these two conditions has become an important conversation and has taken some time to change. The separation of what used to be a blanket diagnosis may help reduce the stigma for people who experience certain symptoms. Though PTS is more common and has minor symptoms, it is still not something to be overlooked. It should still be considered a medical concern and steps to resolve the symptoms should be taken. In the next installment of this blog, we will discuss the definition, symptoms and behaviors, and the treatment of PTSD.