How common is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? About 8% of the people in the United States will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives, according to data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Yet like many other mental health disorders, PTSD suffers from a lack of understanding — and a fair amount of misinformation surrounding what it is and who may suffer from it.
Here at At Your Service Psychiatry, PLLC, we are licensed in over 20 states to proactively treat PTSD through a customized plan of care that’s tailored to each patient’s unique and individual needs.
Here are five common PTSD myths to help you build your awareness.
Myth: Only military combat veterans can develop PTSD
Yes, the term post-traumatic stress disorder gained prominence in the 1970s as a result of work with veterans of the Vietnam War. As a result, many people associate PTSD with combat-related traumas.
However, PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced a trauma. That includes acute traumas from single events like car accidents or attacks, as well as prolonged trauma, like ongoing emotional or physical abuse or living in an unsafe environment.
Life events, like the loss of a loved one, can also trigger PTSD. All of us have different life experiences and different brain structures, and we can all experience and process trauma in different ways.
Bottom line: Anyone of any background can develop and suffer from PTSD.
Myth: PTSD isn’t real. It’s just a sign of weakness
In fact, PTSD is a very real mental disorder that’s been recognized by medical professionals and included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980.
People who suffer from PTSD have physical changes in specific areas of their brains, and they also experience neurochemical changes that can influence their mood and behavior.
Whether you develop PTSD has nothing to do with your physical or mental strength or character. It has to do with the way your individual brain responds to specific stimuli. That’s why PTSD can affect anyone — even someone perceived as very strong.
Myth: Anyone who experiences trauma will eventually develop PTSD
While trauma or tragedy can lead to PTSD, not everyone who experiences a trauma or tragedy goes on to develop PTSD. Again, whether an individual develops the disorder has a lot to do with the differences in how their brain responds to stimuli and processes information. It may also have to do with the type and duration of exposure to trauma.
Researchers are just beginning to understand the mechanisms and nuances of PTSD, as well as the relationship of PTSD with other factors in an individual’s life and development.
Myth: PTSD is only associated with near-death and life-threatening traumas
While severe traumatic events may be more likely to cause a stressful reaction, people can develop PTSD even if the trauma they experience is not necessarily life-threatening.
PTSD can develop in people who feel a loss of control that affects their way of life or survival. For example, prolonged exposure to an unhappy, unsafe, or unhealthy environment can eventually result in PTSD, even without a feeling of imminent danger.
People who react to a loved one’s trauma may also develop PTSD, even without experiencing that trauma themselves. What’s more, the feelings of being threatened or losing control can be real or perceived, based on that person’s own life experiences. This is another reason why one person might experience PTSD and someone else doesn’t, even if their exposures are similar.
Myth: If you’re strong enough, you can get over PTSD on your own
PTSD is a real mental disorder that affects the physical functioning of a major organ — your brain. And just as you need professional care to treat other physical maladies, you need the help of a professional to successfully treat PTSD.
Research has brought novel approaches to treating PTSD, including psychotherapeutic approaches, behavioral techniques, and medication, to help you overcome your symptoms and restore a positive quality of life.
To learn more about the treatment options we offer or to schedule a confidential visit, book an appointment online today.