June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the millions of people who suffer from this debilitating disease. PTSD is serious but there are many effective treatment options available. The more we talk about this disease, the easier it will be for people to speak up and ask for help.
In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, there are some common myths and misconceptions associated with PTSD that we’d like to clear up. By understanding the true nature of this disease and recognizing its signs and symptoms, you may even save a life. Let’s cover seven common myths about PTSD and their truths.
Myth #1. PTSD only affects war veterans.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is often associated with military veterans. And while it does affect some war veterans, it can happen to other people as well. PTSD can develop in anyone who has gone through or witnessed a tragic event.
In fact, PTSD can even affect children. The symptoms might look different, as young children may exhibit fearful and regressive behaviors. Situations that can cause PTSD in children are physical or sexual abuse, acts of violence, natural disasters, car accidents or witnessing a trauamatic event.
Myth #2. PTSD symptoms appear immediately after a traumatic event.
It’s easy to assume that the symptoms of PTSD would start showing immediately following a tragic event, but the reality is that it can take months or years for this to happen. There are a few reasons why:
- There’s a delay in reaction to trauma
- Stressful situations can change how memories are stored
- People may change the way they think about a traumatic experience
- The perception of threat might increase
Generally speaking, the majority of people with PTSD will experience symptoms within three months. But since this is not always the case, it’s important to be aware of delayed symptoms. Additionally, some people suffer from acute stress disorder following a traumatic event that can progress into PTSD without treatment.
Myth #3. Anyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD.
Most people will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, but not everyone will develop PTSD. Less than 7 percent of American adults develop PTSD following a traumatic event, so it’s likely that there are factors that make some people more vulnerable than others.
For example, rates of PTSD are typically higher among:
- People from higher income countries
- People who suffer from comorbid conditions
- Victims of repeated trauma
- Individuals with low self-esteem
Myth #4. Everyone with PTSD shows the same symptoms.
Although the symptoms of PTSD are the same for everyone, people can experience them differently. For example, women tend to be more emotional while men tend to be angry. Men are also more likely to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
A diagnosis of PTSD requires that a person has at least one symptom from each of the following clusters:
- Re-experiencing symptoms through intrusive thoughts, dreams or flashbacks
- Actively avoiding any thoughts, places and triggers related to the trauma
- Negative thoughts and mood swings, or trouble remembering the trauma
- Arousal symptoms such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Because each cluster has many different symptoms, PTSD can look very different from one person to the next.
Myth #5. PTSD goes away after some time.
About half of people do get better without treatment. However, many do not. It takes a long time to undo the associations that people have between their trigger and distressing thoughts. Without treatment, these individuals may continue to struggle with vivid flashbacks and avoidance, and turn to drugs and alcohol to escape.
Fortunately, PTSD is treatable. With a combination of behavioral therapies and medication, people with PTSD are able to return to normal, functioning lives. Without treatment, the symptoms can linger for months or years.
Myth #6. PTSD is difficult to treat.
We know more than ever about post-traumatic stress disorder and the best ways to treat it. Therapy helps with intrusive thoughts, symptoms of avoidance and depressed moods. Even those who feel that their symptoms are reduced can benefit from a trauma therapy program.
Here are the therapies recommended to treat PTSD:
- Exposure therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Medication (often antidepressants)
Myth #7. People with PTSD are aggressive and violent.
Living with PTSD is difficult – there’s no question. People are often reliving their worst experiences over and over again. This is obviously stressful and challenging for them. As a result, they sometimes act aggressively.
The reason why people with PTSD may be more aggressive is because their nervous system is vulnerable. They are essentially in a constant state of fight or flight – always ready to act and protect themselves. To an outsider, they might see a person who is overly alert, angry, irritable, depressed or untrusting.
It’s important to remember that these individuals are hurting and need support more than anything. Also, PTSD individuals are generally not dangerous or violent, and violence is not included in a PTSD diagnosis. Once they learn how to manage their triggers, this fight or flight response usually calms down.
Acceptance Recovery Center Treats Co-Occurring Conditions
Acceptance Recovery Center treats individuals with co-occurring conditions. Substance use is common among individuals with PTSD because they use drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. Thankfully, co-occurring conditions can be successfully treated with a combination of medication and therapy. To learn more about your options for treating PTSD and substance use, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today.