Myths and Facts About PTSD

May 28, 2024
misc image
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more common than most people think, yet it’s still widely misunderstood by many. Here, learn about some common PTSD myths that could be preventing you from seeking treatment that can help.

Data show nearly 10% of Americans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious mental health condition that develops after exposure to a traumatic event or environment. But even though PTSD isn’t uncommon, it suffers from a lot of misunderstandings — and sometimes, those misunderstandings can stand in the way of seeking treatment that can help.

At Michelle Silver Lining Mental Health Counseling, our team, led by Michelle Ilyayev, LMHC, offers compassionate, personalized care for people with PTSD, tailoring every therapy plan to individual needs for maximum results. Here, learn some of the prevalent PTSD myths that could be holding you back from seeking help.

Myth: PTSD only affects veterans

Originally known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” during the world wars, researchers gained deep insight into PTSD in the 1970s during the Vietnam War as they studied the effects of extreme stress and trauma on veterans returning from combat. As a result, PTSD mistakenly became known as a mental health issue that only affects military personnel.

But the fact is that PTSD can affect anyone who’s experienced a traumatic event, either directly or indirectly. That includes trauma from accidents or abusive situations, as well as natural disasters or personal or family trauma.

Myth: Traumatic exposure always causes PTSD

The brain reacts to trauma in different ways, and even subtle differences in individual brain structure or function can alter the way a person reacts to trauma physiologically. Differences in your environment and personal history can also affect the way your body responds to trauma.

Researchers are still learning why most traumatic exposures don’t cause PTSD while others do — and why those same exposures that cause PTSD in one person don't cause the condition in another. What we do know is that just because a specific type of trauma causes PTSD in one person and not in another, that doesn’t mean one person is weaker or less able to cope.

Myth: Only life-threatening events cause PTSD

Life-threatening events can cause extreme psychological responses that can definitely lead to developing PTSD. But extreme trauma that isn’t life-threatening can also lead to the condition developing.

For instance, long-term exposure to an unsafe or unstable environment or prolonged exposure to an abusive relationship or family situation can cause PTSD. So can bullying. You can also develop PTSD after hearing about a traumatic event that affected a loved one, even if you don’t experience the trauma personally.

Myth: PTSD isn’t “real”

Mental health issues have historically suffered from the misconception that they’re not “real” medical problems. Yet like other mental health issues, PTSD is a medical problem that’s recognized by the medical community, including the American Psychiatric Association, which includes a definition in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Remember: The brain is an organ, and it can develop diseases and disorders just like your kidneys, lungs, heart, or any other organ. PTSD is one of those disorders that manifests in specific ways and causes specific symptoms, just as diabetes and heart disease cause specific symptoms.

Myth: Anxiety is the only symptom of PTSD

Anxiety may be a hallmark symptom of PTSD, but you can experience a number of other symptoms, too, including: 

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • A sense of danger
  • Persistent worries or fears
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • A need to be on guard
  • Depression or feelings of hopelessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Problems with trust

As with other mental health disorders, PTSD can interfere with your ability to form close relationships or to perform well at work or school.

Myth: If you’re strong enough, you can overcome PTSD

Everyone knows you can’t cure diabetes or heart disease by being stronger — but unfortunately, many people think you can overcome mental health disorders simply by thinking positively or “getting over it.” 

PTSD is a real medical problem that requires a real medical solution. It’s not a weakness, a character flaw, or a habit you can shake off. PTSD is associated with physical changes in the brain that in turn cause the brain to react differently. Fortunately, as with other chronic health issues, PTSD responds well to medical therapy.

Don’t let PTSD misunderstandings keep you from getting treatment to improve your health and your quality of life. To learn more about PTSD treatment options, request an appointment online or over the phone with Michelle Silver Lining Mental Health Counseling in Great Neck, New York, today.