When you break a leg, everyone knows you need medical help to heal properly. But if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may not even know that there’s help and healing available to you.
The expert counselors at the Soho Center For Mental Health Counseling in Greenwich Village, New York City, believe that nobody should suffer with PTSD or any other mental distress. Here they present some of the myths and facts about PTSD, so you can start getting the help you need:
MYTH: You can only have PTSD if you’re a veteran
FACT: Although much of the discussion around PTSD in the media centers on the experiences of military veterans, anyone can develop PTSD. When you experience or even see something traumatic — such as suffering abuse or witnessing a terrible accident — you may relive or be haunted by the episode in an attempt to understand and deal with it. You may develop PTSD after:
- Witnessing or being in accident
- Witnessing a homicide or attack
- Being attacked yourself
- Being raped
- Being molested
- Being in a combat situation
Any kind of terrifying or potentially life-threatening event can trigger PTSD. You can develop PTSD at any age, including if you’re a child.
MYTH: PTSD is rare
Fact: According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, about 10% of women and 4% of men develop PTSD. Among military veterans, approximately 11%-20% have PTSD. The VA estimates that up to 15% of girls and 6% of boys who experience a trauma later develop PTSD.
MYTH: If you don’t have flashbacks, you don’t have PTSD
Although flashbacks to the traumatic event are one of the symptoms of PTSD, you can have PTSD, but not experience flashbacks. Most PTSD symptoms fall under one of four categories:
In this classic symptom of PTSD, you may have flashbacks to the event and feel like you’re reliving it in your waking life. You could also have nightmares or dreams in which you revisit the trauma.
Even thinking about the events over and over — a state called rumination — is a symptom of PTSD. You might suddenly remember the events when you see or experience something in your normal life that reminds you of the trauma.
Avoiding people and places that remind you of the event, or refusing to talk about it is a symptom known as avoidance. Avoidance can actually lead to more anxiety because consciously avoiding something actually focuses your attention on the problem. Avoidance as a strategy can also negatively impact your life, as you shut yourself off from people who want to help you.
Negative thoughts and feelings
The trauma you experienced might begin to color the way you feel about the world around you and about yourself, too. You might feel depressed and hopeless. You also may have trouble connecting to other people, which could endanger important relationships.
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed is a symptom of PTSD. You might also feel guilty or ashamed of having experienced or witnessed the trauma. Suicidal thoughts or actions are common with PTSD and are a sign that you should get help right away.
Behavior and arousal changes
If you’re suffering from PTSD, you could have a variety of physical symptoms or behavior changes, including being over-reactive. Some common behavior changes include:
- Startling easily
- Acting self-destructively
- Having insomnia
- Feeling irritable and angry
- Having trouble concentrating
- Having memory problems
- Lashing out at others
Children sometimes act out the details of their trauma during play.
MYTH: PTSD can’t be treated
FACT: Men, women, and children who suffer from PTSD can benefit from many effective therapies. We offer evidence-based treatments such as:
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
- Stress management techniques
- Medication, including ketamine
To get help for PTSD symptoms, contact us by phone or send us a private message online at https://www.ptsd.va.gov.