10 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Myths
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that a person can develop after experiencing a disturbing or life-threatening situation. It is a mental health issue that affects people in many different ways. Common symptoms are anxiety, depression, increased agitation, irritability and tiredness; though there are many other symptoms.
PTSD is most commonly found among war veterans and survivors of life-threatening situations. It is a popular hot-button topic, so it is only natural that there are many, many myths surrounding this disorder. Here are 10 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder myths:
1. PTSD sufferers are inherently weak.
Shockingly, this is perhaps the most common misconception about those who suffer from PTSD. While it is true that there are those who suffer from a trauma and are able to continue living normal lives, it does not mean that those who are more deeply affected are mentally or physically weaker. There are many different factors that determine how a person will respond to an event. Everyone’s brain and brain chemistry is different, so the way we perceive and cope with things will differ from one person to another. None are better than the other, merely different. This is one of the strongest post traumatic stress disorder myths.
2. PTSD happens immediately after an event.
Contrary to popular belief, one does not develop PTSD a day or two after the event occurs. In fact, a person only begins to develop the symptoms of PTSD during the first few months after the trauma. For some, the symptoms may not appear until much later in life. If a trauma survivor is experiencing the psychiatric symptoms similar to PTSD less than a month after the trauma occurred, it is more likely that the person is suffering from something called Acute Stress Disorder. While similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in many ways, ASD can only be diagnosed within the first few months after the event, while PTSD is diagnosed after more time has passed.
3. PTSD can ONLY happen immediately after an event.
This belief is very problematic because it leads people to disbelieve victim’s symptoms if the trauma occurred a long time ago. Sometimes it takes time for the symptoms of PTSD to appear, and if many years have lapsed between the stressful event and the victim reporting symptoms, oftentimes family and friends will dismiss the connection. Other times, trauma sufferers become so accustomed to experiencing their symptoms, they under report their day to day experience. The take away here is that PTSD symptoms can emerge at any time. It is important to know about the most common post traumatic stress disorder myths in order to help those who suffer from it.
4. Everyone has some kind of PTSD.
Although not everything stressful can be categorized as traumatic, trauma is unfortunately fairly common in the world. Whether sexual assault, physical violence, witnessing a violent event, or experiencing an extreme natural disaster, suffering is almost commonplace for some. As stated, however, not everyone will get PTSD after even the most extreme of traumas. There is no real way to tell if experiencing a certain highly disturbing event will result in PTSD, though those who have been diagnosed with it in the past are more likely to develop it again, and often have other previous mental illnesses.
5. PTSD only affects veterans.
The picture of a PTSD victim is typically that of a war-hardened veteran, when in fact twenty percent of Americans who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Those who suffer interpersonal incidences, like physical and sexual assault, are more likely to experience PTSD. Women are also twice as likely to develop it, in part because they are more likely to experience physical, emotional and sexual trauma. As many as 1 in 10 women develop PTSD in their lifetime. Even children can develop PTSD if they face abuse or neglect.
6. After a certain amount of time, the victims should be able to get over it.
There is no “getting over” PTSD, just like there is no “getting over” the symptoms of PTSD. There are many factors that contribute to people developing PTSD. It does not matter how long ago the trauma happened. Suppressed or forgotten events can resurface spontaneously and become triggering events. For people who meet the criteria for PTSD, therapy can be very helpful, providing skills to manage the symptoms of PTSD.
7. People with PTSD are crazy or violent.
Along with the grizzled war veteran image comes an image of the crazy war veteran with PTSD. Aside from being incredibly damaging and insulting, that label is entirely inaccurate. PTSD is an illness associated with internal struggles like nightmares, hyper-vigilance, an overwhelming sense of anxiety and intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. While some PTSD sufferers might be more aggressive than non-PTSD sufferers, know that substance abuse and other untreated mental health conditions strongly effect mood instability and aggression.
8. PTSD cannot be treated.
While as a culture we have not (yet) figured out how to cure PTSD entirely, there are plenty of effective treatment options available. Common treatments are individual psychotherapy, group therapy and mood stabilizing medication. Additionally, there is promising research on the use of psychedelics to resolve traumas and cure PTSD. The most useful treatments are those that help the individual learn to identify triggers and exercise self-rescue techniques in everyday situations. It is completely possible to live a normal life with PTSD with the right support.
9. People with PTSD are not truly victims.
A physical wound is not necessary for someone to be considered a victim of an event. Just because a person may not have an obvious external injury does not invalidate their experience. Psychological wounds are just as debilitating in everyday life as physical ones. PTSD should be treated with respect and given the same considerations as other victims.
10. PTSD only affects young people.
There is no specific age range that indicates when someone is more likely to develop PTSD. Anyone, from children to senior citizens, can start exhibiting symptoms if they have experienced trauma in their lives.
If you know someone who struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, support them by suggesting they talk with a professional and do your part to debunk the post traumatic stress disorder myths.