There are tons of falsehoods and myths surrounding PTSD and mental health that just further stigmatize those that suffer from it. Here are the top 7 most common myths about PTSD out there.
Myth 1: Anything can be traumatic
Even though the word “traumatic” gets thrown around casually today, for an event to be considered traumatic it actually has to fit certain criteria. The DMS-V defines the criteria as: “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence” and directly experiencing the event, witnessing it in person, or being indirectly exposed to the event. So while people experience stressful situations multiple times in their life, truly traumatic ones aren’t as common.
Myth 2: You get PTSD immediately after trauma
PTSD cannot actually be diagnosed unless the symptoms last for at least a month. People experience stress reactions immediately after a traumatic event, but these are labeled “acute stress”. Symptoms of PTSD typically emerge within the first 3 months after an event, but in some cases, signs of PTSD don’t emerge for months or even years.
Myth 3: Only people in the military get PTSD
While PTSD is commonly associated with military personnel, it can affect anyone, even children. Victims of childhood abuse and neglect, sexual assault, and domestic abuse can develop PTSD. Other occupations also have high rates of PTSD, such as police occurs, firefighters and EMTs as they encounter traumatic events almost daily. Trauma doesn’t discriminate.
Myth 4: People with PTSD are crazy and/or dangerous
The media has developed the character trope of the “crazy war vet”. It’s been done in movies, TV shows, and on news stations. The truth is that PTSD is not defined by psychosis or violence. Symptoms of PTSD are about coping with memories and implications of traumatic experiences. Also, the word “crazy” should never be used to talk about anyone with a mental illness. It’s damaging and stigmatizing.
Myth 5: You can’t do anything for those that have it
PTSD as a disorder is very responsive to treatment. There are tons of treatment options for PTSD out there that have been proven to be very effective. The hardest part for many people is recognizing the symptoms of PTSD. Once one takes the step towards treatment, they will greatly improve.
Myth 6: They should get over it
People with PTSD would probably love to flip a switch and suddenly be over their trauma. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Some people learn coping skills on their own, while others need professional help. Either way, there is no magical timeline where people reach a certain point and suddenly everything is fixed. It’s a process and it takes people different rates
Myth 7: PTSD is a sign of weakness
This myth surrounds most mental disorders. People just can’t seem to stop equating mental illness with weakness. PTSD is a human reaction to uncommon experiences. The biggest influence over how well someone does in PTSD treatment is whether or not they have support. Don’t further stigmatize them by calling them weak. Instead be supportive and help make them feel stronger.