Because the names and acronyms for post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are so similar, it’s easy to confuse the two conditions. Additionally, both share some similar symptoms. However, there are critical differences between PTS and PTSD, including how they're treated.


Anyone involved in or who witnessed a frightening, stressful, or traumatic event can suffer from PTS, such as:

  • A car accident
  • A hurricane or another type of natural disaster
  • A plane crash
  • The sudden death of a friend or loved one

Often, individuals who experience the event or situation will present some of the signs and symptoms of PTS.

Difference between PTS and PTSDWhen people are under severe stress, they react with fight-or-flight responses that allow them to deal with a threat or fear. Their brains tell their bodies to breathe faster, pump extra blood and oxygen, and tense their muscles, so they’re better able to face the situation at hand.

These are normal reflexes that occur during and sometimes after a traumatic event and are part of a body’s normal reaction and are not considered a mental condition.

Symptoms and Treatment of PTS

Symptoms of PTS may include sweating, shaky hands, a racing heart, and feeling nervous. Sometimes you may have bad dreams about what happened. After the event, you may avoid or be afraid or anything associated with that incident or feel unsettled if you’re in a situation that brings it to mind.

However, PTS symptoms usually diminish soon after the event and won’t interfere with your daily routine. Because PTS isn’t considered a mental disorder, and symptoms usually decrease in about a month, treatment isn’t recommended or required.


People, especially veterans, who witnessed or been involved in a life-changing event may be diagnosed with PTSD. It’s possible for symptoms to present soon after the event—sometimes symptoms don’t occur for years. However, unlike PTS, PTSD is a clinically-diagnosed mental condition that requires treatment by a medical professional.

How PTS Differs From PTSD

Like those who experience PTS, people with PTSD may experience similar symptoms. They may feel jittery, jumpy, or nervous all the time. And they may avoid events, situations, or activities that remind them of that life-altering incident. Additionally, their symptoms may include ongoing flashbacks of the event, nightmares, or an inability to stop thinking about what happened.

However, the difference between these two conditions is found in the duration of PTSD symptoms and their intensity. People are likely to have PTSD if these types of symptoms:

  • Last for a month or longer
  • Are extreme and intense
  • Impede their ability to manage their daily routines and function normally

People suffering from PTSD may recognize the need for medical and/or professional help if their behavior begins to include drinking, increased smoking, or any type of action that shows they’re trying to reduce the stress and anxiety they feel. Additionally, they may be afraid to attend social functions in crowded areas, avoid listening to the news about combat situations, or get angry about ongoing reports about war.

It’s important for veterans to remember that PTS symptoms are common after they’re deployed but will often diminish soon after. Additionally, most people who experience PTS don’t develop PTSD. And it’s very possible for a veteran to develop PTSD without ever first suffering from PTS.

Contact Cuddigan Law About Your PTSD Claim

The experienced veterans disability lawyers team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans made to protect this country. They understand that combat isn't easy, and veterans can suffer from physical injuries, as well as psychological traumas, including PTS and PTSD. If you’re a veteran diagnosed with PTSD, you may be eligible for financial support from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our veterans disability lawyers have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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