PTSD Myths

Many people have their own ideas, right or wrong, about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you have PTSD, just accept their advice graciously and thank them. Some people don’t even believe PTSD is a legitimate problem. If you are confronted with people like this, your only weapon is facts. So like the old saying goes: fore-warned is fore-armed. Here are a few of the most common PTSD myths:

Myth #1 Only Soldiers in Combat Get PTSD 

PTSD has been around for as long as battles have existed. In modern wars, thousands upon thousands of shell-shocked combat veterans, on both sides, returned home, many without arms or missing one or both legs. It would be easy to believe this myth if it weren’t for hurricanes, tornados, floods, fires, auto collisions, school and drive-by shootings, battered and raped women and abused children that have caused PTSD in average citizens everyday. Not to mention police, firefighters and first responders who face trauma daily.

Myth #2 PTSD is Fake 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is very real, and is the third most prevalent mental disorder, surpassed only by substance abuse and depression. Millions of people have been diagnosed with multiple mental disorders in addition to PTSD including: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep and eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – all simultaneously, These are referred to as Coexisting Psychiatric Problems. In addition, millions of people suffer from PTSD without knowing or in denial, afraid to seek help or believing their problems will go away by themselves.

Myth #3 PTSD Will Go Away by Itself Eventually 

As stated above, people believe this myth. They believe their problems will just heal themselves. The fact is, untreated and undiagnosed PTSD is not likely to heal itself. Additionally the accompanying disorders make life intolerable at times, causing sufferers to feel helpless. Medication with therapy is essential. Self-medication only adds another layer of difficulties.

Myth #4 People with PTSD Are Just Weak 

Combat veterans came home from Vietnam and were called sissies and baby killers. They felt shame and as much stress in their own home country as they did fighting in the jungles. Many were ashamed to ask for help for their PTSD. Weak they were not but psychologically injured they were. And just how weak were the firefighters and first responders in New York City on 9-11? Every day they are called upon to sacrIfice themselves. Firefighters and police are at the highest risk for PTSD. Are they weak? 

Myth #5 Blocking out Bad Memories Is All it Takes 

If it were that easy millions of people wouldn’t be suffering. The bad memories don’t bother to knock or ring the doorbell to see if you are taking visitors. They just arrive and make themselves at home. The harder you try to block or ignore them the stronger they become. Add full-blown panic disorder and the person is re-living the entire trauma. Flashbacks arrive in living color with no way to escape the terror. It can be just as difficult to face the terror even in therapy but success can be achieved.

Myth #6 Therapy will Fix Your PTSD Problem 

While therapy does work in many PTSD situations, it is not a cure-all. PTSD coupled with multiple coexisting mental disorders hindered by substance abuse is quite a plate-full for any therapist to handle, so don’t expect miracles. Quite often however, concentrating on curing the PTSD along with medication can also solve the associated disorders.

Myth #7 PTSD Just Doesn’t Show up After Years 

Aah but it often does. It is quite common for a trigger to bring back frightening memories of childhood abuse decades later. Or a seasoned combat veteran who survived his trauma only to experience frightening nightmares of forgotten war time horror. Or an auto collision survivor who years later experiences a melt-down while crashing an amusement park bumper car into another. Our brains are amazing organs. Our memories are saved so that we learn from them. Unfortunately we can’t always pick and choose when to remember something. Just because you survived the original trauma doesn’t mean you are over it.

Myth #8 It’s Your Own Fault You Have PTSD 

People who suffer with PTSD also go through cycles of self-blame. Blaming yourself because you were assaulted or raped, or because your leg was taken by a grenade won’t cure the problem or take the pain away. We can go through life blaming ourselves for every bad thing that happens but unless you were the attacker, rapist or terrorist, you definitely aren’t to blame.

Myth #9 You Don’t Have Insurance or Money for Therapy 

Don’t let the lack of money or insurance stand in the way of getting help for your PTSD and related problems. There are many low-cost options for treatment including community clinics, support groups, and religious counselors. If you are a veteran, by all means seek out the Veterans Administration. Many other resources are listed on our PTSD Resources page.

Myth #10 People with PTSD Are Violent 

Very few PTSD victims are violent or commit violent acts. Occasionally someone with untreated PTSD commits a violent act and the news media capitalizes on it. With millions of PTSD survivors, there will certainly be some who commit violence, especially if they self-medicate. More are apt to commit self-injury than violence against others, and the vast majority hide out in the safety of their homes. Suicide is potentially a larger problem than violence against others.

If you sense danger from an individual or if you sense an individual is in danger of harming himself or demonstrates suicidal tendencies call for help or 911 immediately.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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