PTSD: Myths vs. facts
For PTSD awareness month, we dispel misinformation.
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects about 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Center for PTSD. It can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a shocking or frightening event. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. men will experience a trauma in their lives and so will half of U.S. women, but that does not mean they will develop PTSD.
In order to share the facts about PTSD, we’ve enlisted the help of Jonathan Becker, D.O., M.S., assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. With his help, we hope to dispel some of the most prevalent myths about this disorder.
Myth: PTSD only affects soldiers or veterans.
“The most common types of trauma associated with PTSD in a nonmilitary setting,” Becker explains, “include childhood abuse (both physical and sexual), domestic violence, being a victim or witness to a violent crime, being a victim of a natural disaster, or experiencing a traumatic accident or medical event.”
Myth: PTSD occurs immediately after a stressful event.
Actually, when someone experiences PTSD symptoms right after a trauma, they are diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder. When those symptoms last longer than a month, then that person is diagnosed with PTSD.
Typically, people develop PTSD symptoms within the first three months of a trauma. However, evidence has shown that it can develop years later. Becker says, “We don’t know exactly why this occurs, but a theory may be that these people repress — unconsciously forget — their trauma, but the memories surface later in life when something else occurs that triggers past memories.”
Myth: PTSD isn’t treatable.
PTSD can be a chronic illness for some people, but Becker says there are a number of treatments available. He adds, “Psychotherapy can be used to reduce the frequency and severity of the symptoms as well as help the patient develop skills to manage the symptoms that persist.” Medications may help ease anxiety, nightmares, panic attacks, depression or anger.
Myth: Individuals with PTSD are violent.
Statistics from the National Center for PTSD show that the majority of veterans and nonveterans with PTSD are nonviolent.
Learn more about the prevalence and symptoms of PTSD in our home state in this infographic.