Post-traumatic stress disorder is an often discussed, and often misunderstood, mental health condition, that affects up to 7% of adults during their lifetime. Here we answer five questions related to misconceptions that often prevent people from seeking care.
1. Is PTSD a veteran disease?
While a significant minority of veterans suffer from PTSD, this disorder can impact anyone who has experienced life-threatening trauma. Approximately 70% of people will experience a potentially traumatic event. Sexual assault, natural disasters, serious and traumatic illness, physical attack, etc. are all experiences that can become the stuck memories of PTSD. Trauma survivors with PTSD are haunted by these experiences, impacting everything from sleep to relationships.
2. Are people with PTSD violent?
Traumatic experiences sometimes include exposure to physical violence and many trauma survivors have histories that include violence even if their target trauma does not. Sadly, violence is much too common. Most people with PTSD are not violent. Most people with PTSD do not have problems with aggression or violence. When PTSD happens with alcohol or substance misuse, the risk for violence increases.
3. Can PTSD only be managed but not really treated?
Effective treatments for PTSD exist and include psychotherapy as well as medication. While these options do not work for all people suffering with PTSD, most people will see reduction in symptoms, and many will even see remission of PTSD over time.
4. If someone has mental health problems after a trauma, is it always PTSD?
PTSD is just one possible mental health problem that can occur following trauma. Since PTSD involves being haunted by a trauma memory, it is easily connected to a traumatic event. However, studies following people after exposure to trauma show that for some people trauma may result in other issues, such as depression, panic disorder, substance abuse, or even obsessive-compulsive disorder. Good assessment beyond just trauma exposure is necessary to provide the best insight into diagnosis and treatment of trauma survivors.
5. Is it all in your head?
PTSD can feel like it is all in your head with the intrusive memories, feeling that you cannot connect to others, and a sense of feeling out of control. The impact of PTSD goes beyond just your brain and includes changes in how your body reacts to stress and other normal processes. These changes can even result in weight gain and cardiovascular problems.
Misunderstanding PTSD and its causes contributes to many people never seeking care or dropping out of care before they have had a chance to experience the benefits. In getting the word out about PTSD and the good news that there are effective treatment options, we hope that more people will seek care and experience taking their lives back from PTSD.
Feature image: Silhouette by Isai Ramos via Unsplash.