PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event. The trauma can happen directly to them, or they can simply witness it, and it may haunt them for months or years afterward in the form of PTSD.
Service members and Veterans are more likely to get PTSD than the civilian population; this is because they’re also more likely to see and commit violence, which can have a profound effect on the human psyche. Additionally, women are more than twice as likely to get PTSD than men — probably because they’re more often victims of physical and sexual assault.
While PTSD is a commonly-known after-effect of war, there are some misconceptions that should be cleared up:
- Military members aren’t the only people with PTSD. Anyone can have it, and it affects every person differently.
- Not every service member or Veteran has PTSD — even if they have seen combat. Be careful not to make assumptions.
- Even though PTSD can be recognized and treated, there’s still a lot of stigma around it, and there are many ways we can improve mental health services in the U.S. so that those with PTSD don’t suffer in silence.
However, if you’ve heard of PTSD, you may also have heard of PTSS, which stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
So… PTSS vs PTSD: is there a difference between the two?
PTSS vs PTSD
First, let’s look at the linguistics: syndrome and disorder. Do the two words have different meanings? What do they really mean in the first place?
Well, syndrome is defined as: “a collection of signs and symptoms associated with a specific health-related cause.” And disorder is defined as: “a disruption to regular bodily structure and function.”
They might not sound all that dissimilar, but there is a medical difference between the two. PTSS refers specifically to the symptoms that can occur after experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD is the official diagnosed disorder, which usually means that the person suffers from more severe and chronic symptoms.
It’s a bit more common to hear PTSS called PTS instead, which simply stands for “Post-Traumatic Stress.” This also helps avoid the confusion that crops up when people hear PTSS vs PTSD, and wonder if they’re two different conditions.
So, in a nutshell: Yes, PTSS and PTSD are two different things. But they are referring to the same general symptoms that someone may experience after living through trauma.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSS, or just PTS, refers to a specific set of symptoms that plague someone after a violent or disturbing event. These symptoms may last for 3-6 months. If they continue, then it could be a sign that the person has the more-serious condition known as PTSD, which is a chronic illness.
So, what are these symptoms exactly?
The most common symptoms of PTSD are nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic event. This can be a singular event, or multiple; it can even tie back to just a general period of time, such as a deployment.
A person with PTSS or PTSD will be forced to relive their trauma, and certain noises, scents, or visuals that remind them of the event can “trigger” these unwanted memories. It can be mild or debilitating. Some people even experience them more like hallucinations that break them from reality.
Other general symptoms include uncontrollable thoughts about the event, heightened reactions to stress, anxiety and depression.
How To Treat PTSD
The silver lining behind having PTSD is that there’s countless ways to treat it. However, much like other mental health disorders, one treatment does not work for everyone; you have to figure out what helps you specifically, and it might not be what helps the majority of people.
For the purpose of this article, let’s break down PTSD treatments into three basic categories:
Therapy is more broad than it sounds — it’s not just sitting down with a psychologist or psychiatrist and talking about yourself. Cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization and processing are both therapies that can be designed to help specifically with PTSD.
Another route people with PTSD can try is medication. Sometimes, the disorder is worsened by chemical imbalances in the brain. This can be fixed with specific medications like a serotonin inhibitor. However, these affect people differently, and may not work at all. They may even worsen the symptoms, or create whole new ones. It’s important to keep a running dialogue with your doctor and be ready to switch things up if they’re not working.
Finally, we enter the mysterious category of “Other.” This can mean home remedies that some people have used to alleviate or completely cure their PTSD, or experimental treatments used by doctors and researchers.
One such treatment has been done by Tom Furness, an Air Force Veteran who specializes in developing virtual reality technologies. Furness has used VR (virtual reality) to help people suffering with PTSD after the 9/11 attacks. By gradually placing them back in the event that caused their PTSD, Furness was able to address the root of the PTSD — the fear they had of the fear (or trauma) they were living with. It gave them a way to confront the traumatic event while also existing in a safe space.
There are also a number of “natural” ways to treat PTSD that have worked for many people, including working with animals and meditating. You can read more about those here.
Living With PTSS vs PTSD
Although PTSS may be a short-term version of PTSD, it could also be a precursor to developing the disorder. In essence, they include the same symptoms that have the same disastrous impact on an individual’s life.
If you’re living with these symptoms, it’s important for you to know that it’s normal. I don’t mean to say it’s normal for everyone to have PTSD — but it’s normal for someone who’s been through a traumatic event for this to happen to them.
In Steven Elliott’s book War Story, he talks about his own struggles with PTSD, and thinking that having it made him one of “the weak ones.” But when he read another warrior’s account of the tragic disorder, his perception changed.
“Dave Grossman, himself a former Army Ranger, was telling me that humans weren’t wired to kill other humans. That doing so can cause harm to our hearts and minds. That such wounds have always been a part of war. That I wasn’t alone. That maybe I, too, had permission to be broken.”
When you go through something traumatic, it’s natural that it takes time to heal. Beyond any physical wounds you may bear, something has shifted inside you mentally and emotionally that can be harder to identify and treat. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, please seek help from a medical professional. To learn more about the disorder, click here.
For immediate support, please call the National Helpline for those suffering with substance abuse and mental health issues at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).