Fact or Myth? Debunking PTSD Misconceptions
Misconceptions about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are everywhere, and the stigma creates a barrier and keeps an alarming number of individuals from getting the care they need. Although many different types of social media outlets highlight the reality of living with PTSD, those who suffer are generally viewed in a negative light. We see PTSD’s effects in the media, in our workplaces, gyms, social organizations, churches, in our families, and in our day-to-day lives. However, to those who struggle with the symptoms, it is real, and it deserves to be seen and acknowledged for what it truly is. As an individual reading this article, your voice is important in initiating change in your community.
Let’s take the comparison of mental illness to diabetes. Just like people with diabetes take insulin to correct high blood sugar, people with depression take antidepressants to adjust their low levels of serotonin. There is no difference besides the part of the body that is affected. Both illnesses require medicine to function, but despite the fact, society treats the individual with diabetes with a little more compassion, a little more understanding. The person with depression might receive a text asking, “How are you holding up?” from a friend, but there seems to be an unspoken awkwardness surrounding the topic. It feels foreign to most people, but as our society grows and learns to accept the conversation, it will become more natural. Mental health is critical to our wellbeing, and we need to be able to help out someone we care about when they need it most. It is time for people to learn the truths about mental health stigmas and stand up for what is right.
Myth: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) only affects combat veterans and First Responders
Fact: PTSD can affect anyone
Anyone can have PTSD; a survivor of sexual assault, domestic abuse victim, a natural disaster, or anyone who’s suffered a significant loss. Even a person who did not face any violence or physical threats directly but witnessed someone else’s violent abuse can experience PTSD. Symptoms can include having flashbacks of the event, nightmares, night terrors, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, or triggers caused by seemingly benign or everyday occurrences. When people are triggered by memories from an event, they may react as if the event is occurring again.
Myth: Psychiatric medications are bad, and there are none that specifically treat PTSD
Fact: PTSD can be treated with medication by focusing on symptoms
Medication is essential for individuals experiencing physical illnesses, and it is no different for people with mental illnesses. Just like any other medical condition, mental illness is still an illness. For many people with mental illness, medication is necessary or even needed for survival. For those who struggle with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or hyperactivity, medication can help ease symptoms to allow an individual to function normally. Pairing therapy with medication can further improve one’s mental health and may even help them decrease the amount of medication they take over time.
Myth: Seeking help for PTSD will lead to being ostracized and make symptoms worse.
Fact: PTSD can feel isolating, but millions of people are experiencing it.
It can be challenging to be honest with family or peers about having PTSD, especially because it’s so misunderstood. People who are unfamiliar or uninformed tend to think that people are broken beyond repair because of their hypervigilance, reactivity, personality, or attitude. People tend to shy away from topics that are uncomfortable or that they do not understand. Being open and vulnerable about mental health brings awareness. In doing so, you are working to alleviate the stigma, increase awareness, grow as a person, and promote understanding of mental health. Don’t let other people's perceptions scare you away from getting the help you need.
Myth: Complex PTSD isn’t as “bad” as other forms
Fact: Any condition that affects the quality of your life deserves clinical attention
Complex PTSD is a condition that develops after repeated traumatic events over the course of months or years. It can cause physiological changes in the brain and an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, emotional hypersensitivity, and difficulty understanding one’s own feelings. Complex PTSD and is no less “severe” or “real” than PTSD caused by a single, unusual traumatic event. The imbalance of chemicals leads to depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, fear of places or crowds, brain fog, and an inability to complete basic tasks such as keeping a clean living space and maintaining good hygiene.
Some root origins of Complex PTSD can include:
- Repeated or chronic invalidation and gaslighting
- Emotional or psychological control, manipulation, and abuse
- Covert incest or sexual abuse
- Growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home
- Being held captive as a prisoner of war
It’s essential that we prevent society from displaying people struggling with any form of PTSD as “crazy” or “deranged” or “unhinged” for having an illness that is beyond their control. They are deeply wounded individuals trying to manage a constant, overwhelming stream of pain.
Why the Facts Matter
We need to acknowledge and discuss PTSD instead of shying away from it. Debunking mental health misconceptions can spark a change in the way people talk about mental illness, and even the most minor change can make a difference. Fostering change starts with calling out myths in the media, thinking about the words we choose, speaking out in the community you live in, and ultimately, you. Your words matter more than you think.
Myths about PTSD can be damaging and stigmatizing to the mental health community as a whole. It is critical that we debunk these myths and advocate for the millions of people experiencing mental health challenges around the world. All forms of PTSD are real, and it doesn’t mean you should hurt in silence. If you or a loved one is in need of psychiatric services, Achieve Medical Center is ready to help you heal and regain your life. Achieve Medical Center is a unique, multidisciplinary, private psychiatric and mental health practice. Our team is an accepting and welcoming group that is determined to see progress in our clients. At Achieve Medical Center, we provide holistic mental health services for Southern California, Oregon, and Alaska regions. If you would like more information or schedule a free consultation with Achieve Medical, contact us today at (619) 375-3977. Start your path to healing today with Achieve Medical.