Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will affect an estimated 20% of people who have experienced a traumatic event in the lives. Considering about 70% of adults in America have lived through at least one traumatic event, that means a lot of people will deal with PTSD. In fact, an estimated 13 million people have PTSD at any given time. But even with as common as the disorder is, it is surprisingly misunderstood.
One common myth is that only people with “weak character” who are unable to cope with difficult situations get PTSD. This dangerous belief often stops people from getting help from a Newport Beach psychiatrist who is trained in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment. The fact is, PTSD is a human response to markedly abnormal situations. It involves actual chemical changes in the brain that occur in response to a person experiencing a traumatic event. Many of the symptoms of PTSD seem to be a direct response to these brain changes. In other words, if you have PTSD, it is not your fault.
Here are some other PTSD myths and facts:
Myth: PTSD only affects war veterans.
Fact: It is true that PTSD affects a high number of war veterans. But it can happen to anyone. In fact, PTSD affects more women than men, possibly because women are more likely to experience trauma related to physical and sexual assault. Victims of domestic violence and childhood abuse (of both genders) are at a tremendous risk for PTSD.
Myth: PTSD happens right after a traumatic event is experienced.
Fact: PTSD symptoms do usually develop within the first three months after a trauma, but they may not appear until many months or even years have passed. The symptoms may also subside only to reoccur later in life. This is often the case with adults who were victims of abuse as children.
Some people also don’t recognize that they have PTSD because they might not associate their current symptoms with past trauma. In some situations, such as domestic violence, the victim might not realize that their constant prolonged exposure puts them at risk.
Myth: Since all of us have experienced trauma, we’ve all experienced PTSD symptoms.
Fact: Though memories of frightening experiences may be similar to symptoms of PTSD, most people do not have the severity of the impairment associated with the disorder. There is a difference between normal situational anxiety and true PTSD.
Myth: People should be able to move on with their lives after bad things happen. Those who can’t are just weak.
Fact: There is usually an adjustment period for people who go through an extremely traumatic event. Most of those people will be able to return to leading a normal life. However, the stress caused by the trauma can affect all aspects of a person’s life. For some people, a traumatic event changes their views about themselves and the world around them. This is what leads to the development of PTSD, along with changes in brain chemistry. In these cases, people cannot just “move on” without help.
Myth: People with PTSD are violent and dangerous.
Fact: This is certainly not always the case. Symptoms of the disorder do include hyperarousal, a group of symptoms that includes a tendency to be angry, easily startled and on edge. While this seems like a recipe for a violent outburst, recent studies have shown that vets with PTSD who do not abuse alcohol don’t have a higher risk of violence that vets without it. Occasionally the media will link PTSD with violence, which only encourages people with PTSD to hide their struggles out of fear of being judged.
Myth: Getting treatment for PTSD will hurt your career.
Fact: The opposite appears to be true. A 2006 study of active duty Air Force members found that only 3% of those who sought out mental health treatment thought that it negatively impacted their careers. On the other hand, out of those who waited to seek treatment or did not get help at all, 39% claimed their careers were hurt. Your career will not suffer when you get help, they suffer when you allow PTSD to go untreated and get in the way of doing your job.
Myth: When you have PTSD, you’re on your own because you are the only one who experienced the trauma.
Fact: While it is true that you are the only person who knows what you experienced, you do not have to suffer alone. Your mental health therapist will be able to listen with compassion and help steer you toward the best treatment option for you. You may also take comfort in group therapy sessions with others who have experienced similar traumas. Every person who talks about his or her experience with PTSD paves the way for others to do the same.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is scary, but it is treatable. Never be afraid to contact a mental health therapist for help.