What Is Mild PTSD?

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  • Written By: Sandi Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 21 May 2019
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Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety-related mental health condition that arises after an individual experiences a life-threatening, traumatic event. Although medical professionals may classify PTSD as mild, moderate, or severe, the diagnostic criteria for the disorder is the same. Mild PTSD, as an official diagnosis, is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD.) Rather, mild PTSD is a subjective assessment that indicates an individual who suffers from PTSD has mild symptoms compared to moderate or severe cases.

Not every traumatic event will trigger a stress disorder. Likewise, not every individual is subject to developing PTSD, even if several individuals experience the same event. Some events, such as violent crimes, war, natural disasters, or abuse, are more likely to cause PTSD, although one individual may develop a mild case, while another develops a severe case of PTSD. Little is known regarding why some individuals develop PTSD and others do not, although already-present anxiety disorders can contribute to the severity of the disorder.


Whether a person is diagnosed with severe, moderate, or mild PTSD depends on the severity with which various symptoms present. In order for medical professionals to diagnose PTSD, a patient must present with symptoms of marked anxiety in four categories. The four primary categories of symptoms include reliving or intrusion, avoidance, numbing, and arousal. Different patients will have symptoms from all four categories in varying degrees, with some individuals experiencing additional symptoms. Experiencing further symptoms, such as hallucinations, aggressive behavior, or ringing in the ears, is less common for individuals with mild PTSD.

Reliving the incident is a primary symptom and involves persistent, intrusive memories or thoughts about the incident, including nightmares. With avoidance, individuals become unusually fearful of people, places and things associated with the event, and will often avoid any exposure to such triggers. Numbing is similar to avoidance, with the exception that the individual creates an abnormal emotional distance from people or activities, whether related to the traumatic event or not. Finally, arousal is the fourth category of symptoms, typically presenting as hypervigilance, lack of concentration, or sleepless nights.

Typically, if symptoms are disruptive to the individual, but not debilitating, the individual is classified as having mild PTSD. Debilitating depression, suicidal thoughts, fear, panic attacks, aggressive outbursts, and similar behaviors often indicate more severe PTSD. Treatment for the condition involves several approaches, often based on the severity of symptoms and the effect such symptoms have on the individual's ability to function. Psychotherapy and medications are the most common course of treatment for mild to moderate PTSD.


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Post 2

@- Cageybird, my wife was also in a bad accident, but it was a small plane crash. Her doctor put her on some anti-anxiety medications, and she's had some professional counseling to work past those memories. But she absolutely refuses to get on a commercial airplane unless it's a family emergency.

I've even seen her get very upset if we're watching a movie or TV show that has a plane crash scene. I try to change the channel if I know one is about to happen, but it's hard to predict or prevent a triggering incident with PTSD. She's not debilitated by it, but certain sounds or sights can get her very agitated for a little while.

Post 1

I think my cousin has mild PTSD. She was in a bad car accident a few years ago, and one of the other passengers died. She recovered physically, but to this day she gets very nervous whenever she's not the one behind the wheel. It's the feeling of being a helpless passenger that triggers her anxiety attacks. Most of her family and friends know about her PTSD, but sometimes she has to ride in a carpool situation with unfamiliar co-workers and she gets worked up emotionally.

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