Studies show that 20 U.S. military veterans commit suicide every day. That’s one person every 72 minutes! Many others who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) turn to drugs and alcohol to try and stave off the bad memories and the associated feelings of guilt.
People who suffer from PTSD typically have high levels of intrusive memories, often related to combat or other life-threatening events. The effects of this disorder have been devastating to our current generation of soldiers.
But even though the problem is grave, a large percentage of people who suffer from PTSD avoid treatment — many even deny they have the disorder. The denial stems from the stigma associated with PTSD and the many myths that surround the disorder. In fact, one study of United States service members found that 61 percent of the respondents strongly agreed that disclosing a psychological problem would negatively affect their careers.
Let’s look at some of the myths regarding PTSD and cut to the truth of the matter.
Myths about PTSD
Myth #1: PTSD is a sign of mental weakness
PTSD is not a sign of mental weakness — it’s a common response to trauma. Factors that determine whether a person will suffer from PTSD include the nature and severity of the trauma as well as the individual’s background and history.
Myth #2: People with PTSD are dangerous
Despite how the disorder is often portrayed in movies and occasionally sensationalized in news coverage, people with PTSD rarely lash out toward others. Emotions are generally internalized; in fact those who suffer from PTSD are significantly more likely to harm themselves than other people.
Myth # 3: People with PTSD can’t function well in a work environment
PTSD is a manageable condition. Those who suffer from the disorder can function perfectly well at their jobs.
Myth #4: People with PTSD should “just get over it”
While there are effective therapies for PTSD, the symptoms don’t go away overnight. It takes time for people with PTSD to manage their emotional health.
Myth #5: Nothing can be done once you have PTSD
There are several treatment options for PTSD, including cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, group therapy, family therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and medication. If one treatment doesn’t provide much progress, another will.
How families and friends can help people with PTSD
People with PTSD recover better when they have a support system of people who believe in them, show patience, and are willing to listen without judgment. Emotional support from family and friends helps those with PTSD reduce their feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation.
The primary thing to keep in mind is that people with PTSD have nothing to be ashamed of. They’re not afflicted due to a lack of resiliency or inner strength. The disorder occurs because they experienced something traumatic.
Helping with someone with PTSD may be challenging, but the disorder can be managed —and even overcome — through treatment, backed by strong emotional support, patience, understanding, and encouragement from friends and family members. Understanding the myths about PTSD is the first step toward recovery.