(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alvin Pujols/Released)
When most people think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they think of the Hollywood version: a male military veteran with a hair trigger temper dogged by flashes of pain memory. This archetype suggests that the war never ended for the veteran, and his deteriorating mental condition makes him unpredictable and violent.
There are several PTSD myths baked into this stereotype. Let us bust them open and end the stereotypes.
1) Not everyone’s PTSD is connected to combat. About 70 percent of Americans will experience significant trauma in their lifetimes, and 20 percent of those people will develop PTSD. Doctors define trauma as direct or indirect “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence,” so it can encapsulate many experiences. A veteran who saw combat multiple times in Iraq is just as likely to develop PTSD as a drone pilot or a rape victim.
2) Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men. About one out of ten women will develop PTSD as some point in their lives. The Sidran Institute suggests this is because women are more likely to suffer domestic and sexual violence.
3) People with PTSD are not “crazy” or prone to violence. Calling traumatized people “crazy” stigmatizes the condition and keeps harmful PTSD myths alive. In truth, the general symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety. Not violence.
4) If you have PTSD, you might not know for a long time. Actually, most people with PTSD are diagnosed several months or even years after the triggering event. According to the Sidran Institute, most symptoms set in after three months.
5) Coping with PTSD is hard, but within reach. Struggling to cope with PTSD symptoms doesn’t make someone weak. It actually takes a lot of strength to live with a mental disorder. While symptoms do not vanish overnight or simply fade with time, there are a variety of treatments and therapies that can help people manage their disorder.