This article is about beating some of the myths that surround PTSD, as it is quite a misunderstood mental illness. If someone you know if suffering with this, it's really important to know everything you can on it. Here are the misconceptions, and why they are untrue:
* Only soldiers get PTSD
Trauma, no matter what shape or form it's in, affects many people very badly, and this can result in mental illnesses. Whenever you hear about post-traumatic-stress-disorder, you automatically think of veterans and war heroes who are affected with this illness after serving time in the army. A simple Google search brings up many websites with information on trauma in a war zone, and very few on the other events that can trigger PTSD. While it is true that quite a lot of people who have this illness were once military personnel, this isn't always the case. There are loads of scenarios that can cause trauma, such as abuse, a car crash, or a robbery. Children, teenagers and adults alike can experience this illness - it isn't limited to one group of people.
* People with PTSD are unstable
There are many symptoms of post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Some come on suddenly, such as panic attacks or violent outbursts, after the person has been triggered or has had a flashback. Usually though, these symptoms don't affect anyone else but the sufferer and it is rare for a person with this illness to negatively affect other people's lives constantly. Just because a sufferer may experience sudden and frightening symptoms, even in public, does not mean that they are unstable, dangerous, or crazy. They are simply struggling to cope with a very serious illness. There are a lot of treatments for PTSD that can help people overcome these episodes, but it is vital that generally everyone understands the difference between suffering from an illness and being psychotic and out of control. Calling someone with PTSD these harsh and negative terms can not only be offensive, but detrimental to their recovery.
* PTSD develops immediately after trauma
This simply isn't true. In most cases, post-traumatic-stress-disorder develops a few months after the initial trauma, but can actually take years to appear. A person who has experienced a traumatic event often finds this difficult to process, and in simple terms their brain tries to push it back and forget about it. Obviously this isn't effective at all and eventually the mind will try and sort out this trauma after a while. When a person is susceptible to PTSD, their brain is often unable to file away this trauma easily and this can lead to intense stress and anxiety long after the initial event. It is very rare that a person develops PTSD immediately after the event.
* People with PTSD are weak
Another general myth about mental illnesses is that they are only for the weak minded, and this is no different for PTSD. People respond very differently to trauma - most people may recover and process the event absolutely fine, others may not. PTSD is not a conscious choice and it is certainly not for weak minded people, it is essentially the result of how your brain is wired. Think of it as a normal chemical response to an abnormal physical stimulus.
* You have to remember trauma for it to affect you
There have been many cases of PTSD, particularly in young children, where the sufferer has not remembered the trauma that has occurred. This may be because they were too young, or because the experience was so awful that their brain has chosen to block it out. This is undoubtedly still post-traumatic-stress-disorder, however it does make recovery more difficult if you cannot remember what caused the illness.
* People with PTSD are being over dramatic
Honestly, this one makes me angry. After severe trauma, occasionally the sufferer will be left with feelings of intense and horrible fear and anxiety long after the event. During a flashback episode, these feelings occur, and it is often like they are right back at the traumatic event. It can feel like you have been transported back in time, to where you felt so unsafe and so petrified that it scarred you for life, and it is terrifying. It is not to be taken lightly.
I hope this article has shed some light on post-traumatic-stress-disorder and showed you that it is a very misunderstood illness, and a very serious one. If you or someone you know think you may be suffering with this disorder, please contact a parent, carer, health provider, or a mental health organisation. Here are some helpful links: