There are quite a few myths about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder floating around that aren’t true and can put up roadblocks to successful treatment if they are given any credence. Here are five of the most common PTSD myths in circulation:
Myth #1: I’m losing my mind
PTSD is defined as a normal reaction to an abnormal event, so no, you are not losing your mind.
- Sudden rage or anger
- Feeling detached from loved ones or other people
- Not able to feel positive emotions
- Basic daily functions are challenging
- Difficulty sleeping
- Flashbacks (reliving the event as if it is happening in the present)
- Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the event
The symptoms for PTSD may take months or years to manifest. The delayed reactions often mean that the connection between the event and the symptoms are not readily apparent, and they appear to have arrived out of nowhere.
Even when the link between PTSD and the event is known, the symptoms can appear to strike at random, and quite often while out in public. However, symptoms are most often brought on by a “trigger,” which is an event happening in the present moment that is somehow a reminder of the traumatic event of the past.
Developing strategies to manage symptoms can be empowering and is a vital component of PTSD treatment.
MYTH #2: Therapy will unearth old memories
Talk therapy is not the preferred treatment for PTSD. If symptoms are not contained, it can be unhealthy to trigger unpleasant memories by talking about them.
Trauma therapy patients will first learn how to contain or manage their symptoms using a variety of treatment strategies.
Survivors who have learned to contain their symptoms are often eager to begin discussing their memories. Therapists may employ a variety of techniques as an aid to the treatment.
MYTH #3 I will never get better
When survivors are surrounded and supported by loved ones and are receiving professional treatment, they can absolutely recover from PTSD.
Many people who have experienced PTSD of all types have gone on to live active, happy, and meaningful lives.
The belief that the mind and psyche are not capable of healing is a misguided one. The truth is, the mind can and does heal, just like any other part of the body. Granted, healing of the mind can take time, but with dedication and personal work, it will happen.
Healing does not mean the past has disappeared or has no meaning. Instead, it means that the past event no longer holds any power over the present.
Survivors of trauma will often experience incredible insights about themselves and their strengths. Many of the insights are so influential that they are commonly referred to as the “gifts of trauma.”
A few of the Gifts of Trauma include:
- Developing more compassion
- Discovering creative potential
- An increased sense of meaning and purpose in life
- A heightened sense of intuition
- Feeling spiritually connected
- Finding a more powerful sense of self
- Learning that you are stronger than you ever believed you could be
MYTH #4 If I ever start crying, I won’t be able to stop
Unleashing the powerful emotions associated with trauma can be a terrifying thought. However, pent up stress and emotion can cause bodily harm in the form of headaches, insomnia, obesity, heart disease, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and somewhat surprisingly, skin conditions.
Crying is an excellent release for negative emotions like anxiety. You may feel uncomfortable about the idea of crying at first, but this feeling pales in comparison to the feelings you went through during the traumatic event.
Trauma treatment often involves the use of a stress relief strategy to release the built-up tension in the body. Crying can be useful, but meditation, exercise, art, and massage can also be beneficial.
MYTH # 5: I should be over this by now
A traumatic experience can introduce changes to how your brain functions. Notable changes in brain function from PTSD are related to the “flight or fight” response. People with PTSD brains can get stuck in a high state of alert, with the brain always on the lookout for signs of danger.
Because stress produces physiological changes in the body and brain, PTSD becomes more than a simple matter of getting over a bad experience, in the same way that you can’t get past a medical condition without treatment.
You wouldn’t treat influenza with just cough drops because your symptoms would worsen without medical intervention. Trauma is the same way. If the root cause is not correctly dealt with, then the attempts to “get over it” without professional treatment can cause the symptoms to intensify.
If you have PTSD, take heart in the knowledge that you can return to a normal and fulfilling life. The road to recovery may be challenging, but in the end, you will have reclaimed your life and revealed strengths of character that you never knew existed.
There are many effective treatment options for PTSD. You can read more about them here: Trauma Treatment.