Post-traumatic stress disorder, better known as PTSD, is both well-known and poorly understood. Here are four common myths about it that need to be debunked.
- PTSD only affects soldiers. While it’s estimated that 10 to 20 percent of North American veterans will experience PTSD, nearly anyone can develop the disorder. Abuse, assaults, natural disasters, accidents and surviving a critical illness can all trigger PTSD. Also, some people develop PTSD if a loved one goes through a traumatic event or dies suddenly.
- Trauma means PTSD. Most people who encounter trauma don’t develop PTSD. In fact, they’re more likely to experience acute stress immediately following the event, which can manifest as insomnia, anxiety and other symptoms. By contrast, PTSD can develop a long time after the initial event, sometimes years after experiencing the trauma.
- Weakness causes PTSD. PTSD isn’t a character flaw, nor is it caused by one. Like depression, it’s as much a biological condition as a mental one, and genetic predisposition to mental health issues is a known risk factor. And, just as weakness doesn’t cause PTSD, trying hard to feel better or “powering through” won’t cure it. PTSD needs to be treated by a medical professional.
- PTSD makes people violent. The myth that people with PTSD can lose track of reality and lash out violently is inaccurate and potentially harmful as it stigmatizes afflicted individuals as dangerous. In actuality, neither psychosis nor aggression are standard symptoms of PTSD and less than eight percent of patients exhibit violent behavior.
PTSD is a more common condition than many people think, and it can be treated effectively with a range of behavioral interventions and medications.