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Mental Health

7 Misconceptions About PTSD

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a serious condition not to be taken lightly. It can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time. But there are many misconceptions about what it means and how it affects people who have it. If you or someone close to you has been suffering from symptoms for more than one month, we highly recommend seeking professional treatment as soon as possible so they don’t develop other co-occurring conditions like depression or substance abuse. 

People with PTSD are often misunderstood and not taken seriously. They’re seen as weak or unhinged, but the truth is that they have an incredible ability to survive in conditions of unimaginable trauma. In fact, people with PTSD  have an immense amount of strength because they’ve found ways to cope with their symptoms in order to function in their daily lives. 

People suffering from PTSD have no control over their symptoms, triggers, or spirals. I wrote this to give insight into seven common misconceptions about PTSD and debunk them to help those suffering feel more heard and to help those who don’t suffer understand the struggle and offer better support. 

PTSD Only Affects Military Veterans

The stigma around Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is that it can only be diagnosed in military veterans, but the truth is much more complex. Most people associate PTSD with military veterans because they experience high levels of stress due to deployments. However, non-veterans also have the ability to develop symptoms of PTSD following immense trauma and traumatic experiences.

photo of man in military uniform

Things that can cause various levels of PTSD tend to include childhood neglect, physical attacks, threats, abuse, and sexual assault. Although these are not the only events that can cause PTSD, they are the most common. Anyone who has been through a life-altering event, or seen unspeakable things can develop symptoms of PTSD. 

Everyone Who Experiences Trauma Will Develop PTSD

There are many types of traumatic events that one can experience. Most cases of PTSD stem from events that have happened in the person’s life and can be triggered by sounds, smells, or actions that are similar to that event. 

Life-threatening trauma is no exception, most people will not develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after such events. For example, some people do experience severe PTSD and symptoms after being in a car accident. However, not everyone will experience that same level of trauma, and may only have stress and anxiety for a short period of time following the event. 

People who experience trauma and don’t develop PTSD may experience short-term stress with symptoms including insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Around 8% of the population is diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives. The risk of developing PTSD increases with the severity, duration, and proximity of the trauma and the individual’s reaction to it.

Ptsd Isn’t Treatable

PTSD, like many other mental illnesses, cannot be cured but it can be treated. There are multiple types of therapy that can be beneficial to people diagnosed with PTSD including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization therapy, and prolonged exposure therapy. 

Not only are there different types of therapy available for people who struggle with PTSD, but there are also medications. Many people with PTSD live a normal life coping with their illness. Without treatment, symptoms can worsen to the point that people cannot function in relationships, school, work or even live a normal life. 

If you are suffering silently please reach out and get help. 

PTSD Only Involves Flashbacks

PTSD can and does affect everyone differently depending on the individual and the trauma they experienced. Flashbacks include hearing, feeling, or seeing a previous event take place and/or having graphic nightmares. Symptoms of PTSD include but are not limited to intrusive thoughts, intense distress, physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling, and nightmares. PTSD can be so debilitating that some people fall victim to suicidal thoughts. The long-term effects of PTSD may or may not include flashbacks.

 PTSD is so much more than what the public generally believes it to be. 

All People With PTSD Are Violent

Having PTSD is known to be extremely miserable. People diagnosed with PTSD are reliving their traumatic experiences during their episodes whether those are rare or frequent. There are many ways that people cope with this, and not everyone copes with violence. 

Psychosis is not a symptom associated with PTSD and ‘psychotic’ dangerous episodes are not directly caused by PTSD. People diagnosed are more likely to withdraw and retreat than become instantly aggressive. They are more likely to be the victims of the violent episode, not the perpetrators.

upset ethnic woman screaming in room

PTSD Only Happens Right After The Traumatic Event

There is no hard and fast rule about when PTSD will take hold in someone. Although it typically takes a week or two for the signs of post-traumatic stress to show up, some people don’t develop symptoms until weeks, months, or even years later. 

For this reason, many people who develop PTSD following an extremely traumatic event don’t often get the help they need. Shortly after a traumatic event, most people will experience reactions from stress, but PTSD only gets diagnosed if those symptoms last for at least a month. Sometimes the reason PTSD doesn’t develop until years later is that something may trigger someone that brings back the memories of the traumatic event causing them to relive that experience and struggle to recover.

People With PTSD Cannot Function

People diagnosed with PTSD can live a regular life while experiencing symptoms as long as they are in therapy and/or on medication and have a strong support system. People diagnosed with PTSD can have jobs and healthy relationships just like people without. 

Some people with PTSD are unable to work due to the complications that the symptoms cause, but that isn’t the way the illness affects everyone. PTSD may interfere with their ability to do certain tasks, but there are many jobs suitable for people who are diagnosed.

It’s important to note – PTSD isn’t something someone “gets over” on their own, and should never be ignored when recognized.

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Dr. W. Santiago | Literal Med

Thanks for clarifying the misconceptions about PTSD. It is a reality that military members are diagnosed at a higher rate than other groups due to the severity/intensity of the traumatic events that they are exposed to. However, there are ways to help everyone.

Jelissa
8 months ago

Super great article. Let’s take the stigma away from mental illness!

Shea Hulse
7 months ago

Thank you for shedding light on a delicate subject. There are so many variables to something like PTSD.

Nthabiseng
7 months ago

Great article. These are so helpful and imsightful, as we often have a lot of misconceptions around this mental illness.

Soo
7 months ago

Great post! I think PTSD is common than most people know. Thank you for sharing the misconceptions.

ellegracedeveson
ellegracedeveson
7 months ago

This is such a interesting and educational post! My dad has PTSD so everything you’ve written we can relate to. There’s so many misconceptions of PTSD and it can be incredibly draining having to explain different things to people. I think this will really help people understand PTSD and what not to say. Thank you so much for sharing this with us lovely Xo

elle – ellegracedeveson.com

readandreviewit
6 months ago

This is such an informative read! I think your first post about it not only effecting military veterans is so important, I feel like that’s the first place people go when they hear the phrase but it truly can affect anyone with trauma. Thank you so much for sharing x

Krystian
3 months ago

This is all very very true! Living with ptsd is hard and there are so many rumors about it. I’m happy to see someone talk about it as well!