PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder is a very serious mental health issue that carries with a stigma throughout the military and with civilians. There are a lot of myths that pop up continually about the disorder and only make this issue worse since people misunderstand what it is and what they can do about quite often. Unfortunately this tends to lead to a severe prejudice that can lead to maltreatment and even overtly negative complications that can seriously impact the lives of those affected.
PTSD is nothing new, as it’s existed for as long as humans have been fighting wars against one another. The only difference is that the diagnosis didn’t show up until the 1980’s when this definition began seeing wider use. Until then it was described as shell shock, war strain, or even combat fatigue. At this point PTSD is still a huge concern among the military but it has been growing steadily within the civilian population as well. The myths however have continued to spread no matter how much is written on the subject, as many people remain either willfully or unknowingly ignorant on the issue.
Here are some myths about PTSD, and the truth behind them.
Myth: People with PTSD are mentally weak.
Truth: This is an all too common myth, but the truth of it is that while it is not an outward sign of mental weakness, it is a sign that a severe amount of trauma was inflicted upon the individual, perhaps enough to overcome the natural resilience that many people possess. Not all trauma is the same when it comes to type or severity, and depending on what happens a person might not recover as easily. But it is not a sign of mental weakness.
Myth: Anything can be traumatic.
Truth: It is true that any situation can be traumatic to a degree, but in this instance the trauma inflicted to an individual is usually so horrific and so intense that it overrides the body’s natural responses and creates a severe level of trauma that the mind cannot easily escape from. You can’t really equate being frightened for a person who’s in danger from afar to being the person that’s in the line of danger. It’s possible to experience trauma in both cases, but the firsthand experience will be far more traumatic.
Myth: PTSD is always automatic and happens right away.
Truth: It’s true that the symptoms can begin without much time in-between the event and the onset of PTSD, but the diagnostic criteria that has to be met for an individual to be experiencing PTSD has to last at least a month.
Myth: People with PTSD are crazy/dangerous.
Truth: This is an inaccurate depiction set forth by the media and films. The disorder isn’t defined by the psychosis or violence that is seen on TV and in movies, but instead is shown through symptoms that center around being able to cope with the traumatic experience and the effects it can cause.
Myth: People with PTSD should be able to get over it eventually.
Truth: It’s possible to treat the disorder and for people to learn how to cope, but the disorder will never be fully cured. Many people however do find ways to benefit from working with those that are trained on how to deal with those suffering from the disorder.
PTSD is nothing to laugh about or make fun of.
You might notice during events such as the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve that some vets will choose to be absent for the festivities. Depending on what they went through during their term of service they could be extremely sensitive to loud noises and bright flashes. This is no time to joke, nor is it any time to look at them any differently. What they went through during their term of service is also none of your business, so don’t ask unless they feel like opening up.
In fact, the next time you see someone suffering from this disorder make a choice: either be there for them, or back away.
No one chooses the trauma that causes this disorder, as the struggle that goes with it is very real and is a living nightmare for many people. PTSD is very real, and it is quite damaging to those that don’t seek help. Those that do however are often capable of leading productive lives, but will be balancing on an emotional tightrope for a long, long time, if not for the rest of their lives.
Think about that if you meet someone that suffers from this disorder.