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Debunking Myths about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Originally referred to as “shell shock”, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first brought to attention by war veterans. Soldiers often return home traumatized by the violence and destruction they witness during combat, but PTSD can result from a number of traumatic incidents. These include kidnapping, car accidents, witnessing the death of a loved one, natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and floods, mugging, rape, physical assault or torture.

People with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing flashbacks during the day. They may experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or become easily startled. PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood, and can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse or anxiety. Like other mental disorders, many people misunderstand PTSD. We’re here to debunk common myths and give you the right information so you can fully understand this disorder.

Myth- Everyone who experiences a life-threatening event will develop PTSD

In reality, most people who are exposed to traumatic events do not get PTSD, and many see a decrease in symptoms over the months following an incident. The number of people who receive a PTSD diagnosis ranges from less than 10 percent of individuals after more than 12 months of exposure to general trauma (natural disaster or car accident), to 37 percent of people exposed to intentional trauma (rape, assault, kidnapping).

Myth- Only weak people get PTSD

It isn’t clear why some people get PTSD and others don’t. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD as men are but keep in mind that women are more likely to be diagnosed with mental disorders because they seek help more often. People who are exposed to interpersonal trauma like sexual assault or warfare are more likely to have PTSD symptoms than survivors of accidents or natural disasters. Support from friends and family are also important to trauma resilience. None of these factors have anything to do with someone’s inner strength.

Myth- I should get over my trauma after a certain amount of time

By nature, trauma hangs around. Sometimes a person is going along just fine but something triggers the memories and they are plagued by symptoms. As people age, the activities which distract them from long term memories start to decrease, exposing the individual to more and more of their old memories. If these memories are traumatic, they may be overwhelmed by things that didn’t bother them for decades.

Myth- My trauma was too long ago, I can’t do anything about it

It is never too late to address your trauma. Many clients are middle-aged survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There are various reasons someone waits to get treatment, but waiting to get professional help isn’t an obstacle. Sometimes it is easier to address trauma years later since the initial pain has probably subsided and the person has developed an identity separate from the trauma.

Call Us Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD, call the Family Counseling Center in Salt Lake City today. No one should deal with this alone, we can help you.