Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that may occur to individuals that have either experienced or witnessed a life-threatening traumatic event. These include severe accidents, sexual assaults, or terrorist attacks. Some symptoms of PTSD include having flashbacks and nightmares about the event, severe anxiety, and negative mood changes.
Considering how common PTSD is, it is surprising that there are still various myths that surround this condition. As such, this article will debunk the 5 most common myths about PTSD.
1. “PTSD is all in your head and does not exist.”
PTSD DOES exist. It is a recognized mental issue that is also classified under “trauma and stressor-related disorders” in the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (also known as the DSM-5). Having experienced a traumatic event, one may develop PTSD which will then be accompanied by overwhelming and disturbing thoughts and feelings. Strong emotions following such events are also responsible for changes in the brain that lead to PTSD.
It is crucial to note that PTSD is a medical condition. Similar to patients that are suffering from other health conditions such as cancer, the same is true for patients suffering from PTSD.
2. “Why would I have PTSD? I’ve never been to war.”
Indeed, PTSD was originally known as “shell shock” during World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. However, it is imperative to remember that PTSD can happen to ANYONE of any nationality, ethnicity, gender, or age – not just combat veterans.
A diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an upsetting traumatic event, both directly or indirectly. For example, PTSD could occur to an individual learning about the violent death of a close family or peer. It can also happen as a result of repeated exposure to horrible details of traumatic events, such as police officers exposed to details of sexual abuse cases.
3. “It’s been months – I’m probably over it.”
A huge misconception about PTSD is that it only happens right after a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD may start within a month from the traumatic event, but depending on different individuals, symptoms may not surface until years after the event.
This is especially true for trauma suffered at a young age, such as childhood abuse. It is possible for these victims to have suppressed memories of their sufferings that are only triggered later on during adulthood.
4. “PTSD is just a sign of weakness.”
Although not everyone gets PTSD after having experienced a traumatic event, there is no evidence that PTSD stems from not being mentally resilient enough. The risk factors of PTSD such as a history of mental illness, having been through other traumatic events, and the severity of trauma experience all have to be taken into consideration.
Therefore, we should not feel ashamed for developing PTSD following the experience of a traumatic experience. It is important to remind yourself that it is not your fault nor a result of your own choice that you experience PTSD. However, the choice is yours in deciding to seek professional help.
5. “I’m never going to recover from PTSD.”
Although no treatment can help to entirely eradicate all the disturbing memories about the traumatic events that you may have experienced, seeking professional help and going for treatment can reduce the extent to which they can interfere with your daily life.
Hence, there is definitely hope for you to recover from your PTSD and be able to lead a meaningful life again. This might certainly take some time, but it is important to be patient with yourself and recover at your own pace.
There are likely many more myths out there on PTSD that are not just limited to the 5 written above and they all go to show how few people truly understand the realities surrounding PTSD. This is alarming as it exacerbates the existing stigma around mental health and potentially prevents individuals suffering from PTSD from seeking help. They might also refrain from treatment with the false belief that their PTSD can be improved by just trying harder to be mentally resilient.
As a first step in breaking this mental stigma, let’s all learn to differentiate myths from facts regarding mental illnesses. Especially since June is PTSD Awareness month, encouraging meaningful conversations about PTSD allows the voices of those suffering from PTSD to be heard.
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