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Breaking Myths Monday: PTSD

Theo Gagen
Jun 24, 2019

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that affects those who have experienced or witnessed extreme trauma either in their childhood or adult life.  These types of traumatic events include situations like natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist attacks, war, or any type of violent personal assault.  Originally referred to as “shell shock” for those who experienced PTSD post-war, PTSD has gotten a reputation to be a veteran’s illness, among other myths.

Here are the most common myths about PTSD, and why they’re not true:

Myth: PTSD affects someone immediately after trauma, and if it doesn’t happen immediately, they’re no longer at risk.

In most cases, symptoms of PTSD will occur within or around the first three months post-trauma.  However, this is not the case for everyone, and in cases involving childhood trauma or domestic abuse, the symptoms have a tendency to show up later in life.  Symptoms of PTSD are also known to come and go at what seems like random, so it can make it hard for individuals to get diagnosed correctly.

Myth: The only people who have PTSD are military veterans.

While there is a large percentage of military veterans who experience PTSD, they are not the only people at risk.  Trauma can affect anyone. In fact, data shows that around 70% of Americans experience a major event in their lifetime, with 20% of those people developing PTSD.  Additionally, women are at a larger risk for developing PTSD because they are more likely to experience physical trauma in their lifetime.

Myth: Those who have PTSD are weak individuals.

Mental illness is not a character flaw.  Those who develop PTSD often have a genetic predisposition to this disorder, or have experienced an extremely traumatic event.  This means the development of PTSD was not in their control, and was not their decision. There is no weakness in dealing with trauma.

Myth: If you have PTSD you’re dangerous to be around and could lash out at any second.

This myth is most likely due to poor representation of PTSD in the media, but is nevertheless extremely inaccurate.  The main symptoms associated with PTSD are intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, guilt, isolation, and hypervigilance.  Issues such as aggression and irritability are less common symptoms of PTSD.

Myth: PTSD cannot be treated.

While there is no cure for PTSD, this does not mean it can’t be treated.  PTSD can be managed if an individual is willing to seek help and has a desire to improve.  Currently, suggested treatment modalities include cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, desensitization therapy, and mood stabilizers or medication.  

Mental health myths are dangerous because they encourage people to make assumptions about others without doing research, or getting to know the individual.  If you have questions about a specific issue or disorder, visit where we cover a variety of mental health issues with reputable sources and references.

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