Understanding The Spectrum: Types Of PTSD Explained

All of us are different, and so are our reactions to extreme and distressing life events and traumas. Two people can go through similar traumatic experiences and have completely different reactions and recovery processes. 

Not everyone who has gone through a traumatic life experience develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, not everyone who develops PTSD has it on a similar scale. Some people might be unaware of their PTSD symptoms, while others might have debilitating signs affecting their daily lives. 

PTSD, like all other mental disorders, occurs on a vast spectrum. 

Starting from a normal stress response to complex and comorbid, there are various types of PTSD affecting individuals. 

In this post, we will understand and analyze the different types of PTSD and what sets them apart. Equipped with this knowledge, you can effectively help yourself and those around you who might be dealing with the condition. Let’s get started.

Types Of PTSD

5 Different Types Of PTSD

1. Normal Stress Response

The normal stress response marks the onset of PTSD. However, not all stress eventually develops into PTSD. It affects the endocrine, nervous, and immune systems while activating the flight-and-flight response of the body.

It is, albeit normal, to have a stress response to some traumatic experience in your life. The common signs of a stress response include the following:

  • emotional numbness,
  • dissociation,
  • painful flashbacks,
  • avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic life event, etc.

Normal stress response does have too many long-term implications on a person’s life. The best treatment option is psychotherapy and group therapy.

2. Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder arises due to traumatic life experiences, just like PTSD. However, the symptoms arise between three days to four weeks and do not last long. PTSD, on the other hand, is diagnosed after symptoms last longer than a month. 

The symptoms of acute stress disorder include both physical and psychological signs, including the following:

  • palpitations,
  • headaches,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • anxiety,
  • sleep problems,
  • difficulty concentrating,
  • social withdrawal, etc.

3. Uncomplicated PTSD

Uncomplicated PTSD is one of the most commonly diagnosed and treatable types of PTSD. It is diagnosed after experiencing an isolated traumatic event like being in a car accident, experiencing physical or mental assault, etc. 

While the symptoms might be common with the other types of PTSD, the main distinction is that it does coexist with other conditions like anxiety or depression. 

This type of PTSD is mostly treated with psychotherapy and behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

Read more: Acute Stress Disorder vs. PTSD – Differences And Similarities

4. Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is one of the most severe types of PTSD. It occurs in individuals who have endured prolonged and elongated periods of trauma. The traumatic life event may have lasted for months and might arise from sexual, verbal, or physical abuse. It might be associated with adverse childhood experiences and affects a person’s social behavior and relationships. 

The symptoms of complex PTSD might also include physical pain and constant fatigue.

This type of PTSD is difficult to treat, and recovery happens much slower than uncomplicated PTSD. Treatment plans also include carefully curated medication charts along with therapy.

5. Comorbid PTSD

Comorbid is the type of PTSD that occurs along with other psychiatric disorders. Commonly co-occurring conditions with PTSD include the following:

  • anxiety disorder,
  • major depressive disorder, and
  • substance abuse disorder.

Comorbid is also one of the common types of PTSD as it is not unusual to have more than one mental disorder with PTSD. Treatment for the condition involves treating both disorders through therapy and medications.

Read more: Psychotherapy For PTSD – Meaning and Types


Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental disorder resulting from traumatic and intense life experiences. However, not everyone’s response to trauma or stress is equal; therefore, there are various types of PTSD depending on the disorder’s symptoms, recovery time, and causes.

PTSD is a debilitating mental health condition that requires proper professional help. Access to professional help is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy platforms. To learn more about them, click here.

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