Five Myths About PTSD
There’s a lot of talk about PTSD and trauma these days, yet there are still some unhelpful myths about it. To clear things up, here are five myths about PTSD and why they aren’t true.
Myth 1: Only soldiers who’ve been in combat can have PTSD.
Nope! Anyone who has had an experience that posed a threat to their life or bodily harm, or who perceived themselves to be in that sort of danger, can develop PTSD. In some cases, we can even develop PTSD when vicariously exposed to other people having traumatic experiences.
This means that people who have experienced things like sexual assault/attempted sexual assault, childhood abuse, car accidents, natural disasters, medical trauma such as waking up during surgery, workplace bullying, abusive relationships, school shootings, burglary, etc., could possibly develop PTSD. Certain professionals like paramedics, law enforcement, firefighters, aid workers, etc., are at high risk for PTSD because they are repeatedly exposed to traumatic situations.
Myth 2: PTSD makes people violent and dangerous.
Again, nope! Individuals diagnosed with PTSD are not more likely to harm others. If they are startled, they might jump and accidentally hit or kick someone, but not intentionally. (By the way, it’s a good idea not to startle anyone if you can help it, since so many people have experienced dangerous situations and have an intense startle response.) As with anyone who is having a difficult time, it is important to watch for signs of suicidal ideation.
Myth 3: People with PTSD can’t function or have relationships or jobs.
There is a whole spectrum of PTSD severity. As with any disease or mental health issue, some people will have more extreme symptoms than others and might need more help to deal with daily activities than other people. Many people with PTSD find help and tools to build a meaningful life, including relationships. Building healthy relationships might take some extra work if the trauma was an interpersonal one, such as abuse or assault, but it’s possible, especially with therapy. Survivors of trauma often go on to find ways to help others who have been through similar experiences, whether as part of their job or as volunteer work.
Myth 4: Other people went through worse experiences, so I can’t possibly have PTSD.
There’s no way to compare traumas. They’re all bad! And any traumatic experience has the potential to cause PTSD symptoms. If you experienced a trauma, it makes sense that you might have reactions and symptoms related to it. It also means that you are deserving of the help you need to cope with and heal from that experience.
Myth 5: If I have PTSD, I’m never going to get better.
PTSD is challenging, especially if it was caused by many years of traumatic experiences. It’s also true that we can’t go back to exactly the way we were before a trauma—we know things we didn’t know before, we have experienced things we hadn’t experienced before. However, we can find tools to deal with the symptoms and ways to build a life that feels meaningful. Having a trained and compassionate person to guide you through the healing process can help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with life after trauma, you’re not alone. There are many competent professionals out there. In Texas, Dr. Jo Eckler offers in-person and online therapy for PTSD and trauma. Learn more at www.beyondtherapy.us.