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6 Myths About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”)

6 Myths About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”)

February 12, 2020

We’ve come a long way in our understanding of PTSD. We now know that trauma can have lasting physical and emotional effects on those who experience it. As the definition of PTSD has evolved, so have therapeutic techniques that address both the physical and mental symptoms of PTSD.

By expanding how we view PTSD, we can raise awareness, dispel myths, and reduce stigma that depicts people with PTSD as dangerous, unpredictable, and incompetent.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a disorder that some people develop after experiencing a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. The “flight or fight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect the person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people will recover from those symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD.

Unfortunately, as with many other mental health issues, there is still a stigma attached to PTSD that prevents some people from seeking help.

Six Major Myths About PTSD We Need To Stop Believing

  1. Only combat veterans get PTSD.

It is estimated that 7.7 million American adults have PTSD. Many are not military personnel. Almost anyone who has been exposed to traumatic incident such as, natural disasters, accidents, the loss of a loved one, and near-death experiences, can develop PTSD.

  1. Everyone who is exposed to a traumatic event gets PTSD.

People respond to traumatic experiences differently, and not everyone who endures a horrific event will become traumatized. Some people experience short-term distress while others experience “post-traumatic growth.” Following a tragic event, these individuals find new meaning and purpose in life.

  1. People who get PTSD are weak.

PTSD has nothing to do with mental strength. Several risk factors place some people at a higher risk. For example, someone who felt helpless during a tragic event—like an individual who was taken hostage—is at a higher risk than someone who was able to save themselves from a fire. People who lack social support and those with a history of depression may also be more likely to develop PTSD.

  1. PTSD isn’t a big deal.

People with PTSD are not simply seeking attention. Their symptoms can be debilitating.  People with PTSD often experience higher rates of divorce and unemployment. They are also at a higher risk for depression and suicide. Many people with PTSD also self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, putting themselves at risk for a substance use disorder.

  1. There are no treatments available for PTSD.

No single medication cures PTSD, but medication can reduce symptoms. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, sleep aids, psychotherapy, and exposure therapy, which is used to help people confront their trauma in a safe environment, can be effective in treating PTSD.  Virtual-reality exposure therapy has also shown promising results with combat veterans.

  1. PTSD is a personal issue.

Like other mental health issues, PTSD can take a toll on an individual’s functioning. People experiencing PTSD have difficulties navigating, family, work, and social situations. Improved communication and education can reduce the stigma attached to PTSD and encourage people to seek treatment for their symptoms.

If you or an eligible dependent is struggling with mental health or substance abuse, please contact the MEND Program at (212) 366-7590 or by email at Mend@nyccbf.org.

Adapted from Amy Morin, LCSW. 6 Myths About PTSD We Need to Stop Believing.