While they sound similar in name, PTSS vs PTSD are different conditions with one notable similarity. Both appear after one goes through a traumatic experience, such as sexual assault, childhood abuse, or a natural disaster.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at PTSS and PTSD, and the differences between them. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome?
Upon experiencing (or witnessing) a tragic event, you may develop post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). Also referred to as post-traumatic stress, this is a normal brain response to both common trauma (i.e. a car accident) and uncommon trauma (i.e. kidnapping).
When we experience these traumas, our brains become hyper-alert, reacting in our bodies with a number of responses, including:
- Excessive sweating
- Faster breathing
- Muscle tension
- Overall nervousness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shaky hands
- Strong sense of fear
Some refer to these reactions as our “fight-or-flight” response which is our body’s natural reaction to an oncoming ordeal. This reaction is largely caused by excessive blood pumping throughout the body and oxygen into your muscles. Simultaneously, you’re shutting down functions that are less critical in the moment, such as the digestive system. ¹
Since this reaction is considered normal (especially in cases of intense trauma), mental health professionals don’t consider PTSS a mental disorder.
Still, PTSS can linger even after the traumatic event has occurred. People with PTSS may become cautious to people, places, or things that remind them of the event. Furthermore, they may develop bad dreams or a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). ²
Luckily, most cases of PTSS subside within a few days. If you continue to struggle with the condition long afterwards, you’ve likely developed PTSD.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that triggers anxiety symptoms upon reminders of a traumatic event. In other words, if you’ve witnessed or experienced trauma, you may find yourself developing an anxiety disorder surrounding that trauma. ³
Due to this reaction, you may develop the following PTSD symptoms:
- Avoiding people, places, and things that remind you of trauma
- Difficulty in maintaining relationships
- Easily startled or frightened
- Emotional numbness
- Feeling detached from those around you
- Guilt or shame
- Irritability, anger, aggressiveness
- Lack of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
- Loss of hope in the future
- Memory problems
- Overall negative thoughts
- Reliving of traumatic events
- Self-destructive behaviors (i.e. self-harm)
- Social isolation
- Sleep problems (i.e. nightmares)
- Trouble with positive emotions
Admittedly, the symptoms between PTSS vs PTSD are similar. The key difference is the duration and intensity of symptoms. While PTSS only lasts a few days, PTSD is a long-lasting and debilitating mental health condition.
What’s the Difference Between PTSS vs PTSD?
Since PTSS isn’t a legitimate mental illness, it’s impossible for mental health professionals to diagnose it as a condition. As mentioned, symptoms of PTSS usually only last a few days. Therefore, most people will come to relax once time eases their stress.
However, if PTSS symptoms continue you effect you 30 days after a traumatic event, this can be an indication that you’ve developed PTSD.
With that said, many mental health professionals are taking PTSS more seriously in the hopes that it will provide more accurate diagnosing for PTSD. In fact, screening tools (such as PTSS-14) have been able to indicate whether or not a person with PTSS is at risk of developing PTSD. ⁴
By recognizing PTSD early, a patient has a much better chance of treating the symptoms appropriately.
When to Find Help for PTSS or PTSD?
Above, we laid out a set of symptoms you may experience from both disorders. If you find that these symptoms are inhibiting your quality of life, it’s important to speak to a mental health professional. They will put you on track to overcoming these symptoms based on a personal recovery plan.
While PTSS wasn’t previously taken seriously, it’s indication for PTSD has furthered research development in testing protocols. In other words, you have a better chance of preventing PTSD development if a mental health professional is able to identify your risk factor based on PTSS symptoms.
For this reason, it’s important to seek out help as soon as you start to develop any set of symptoms. The earlier symptoms are intervened, the easier it is for a patient to improve their quality of life.
Still have questions about PTSS vs PTSD?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ HHS Public Access: Adrenal Responses to Stress
² Sleep Medicine Reviews: Post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep-what a nightmare!
³ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
⁴ Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica: Use of a screening questionnaire for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a sample of UK ICU patients