June 30, 2023

PTSD can be caused by a variety of common types of traumas. Here, we dispel myths to spot PTSD and get help.

About 6% of the U.S. population will have post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Center for PTSD. It can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a shocking or frightening event. Most people experience a traumatic event during their lives, but that doesn’t mean they will develop PTSD.

Women are more likely to experience PTSD than men, due to the trauma women are more likely to experience, like sexual assault or domestic assault.

In order to share the facts about PTSD, we’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Nathaniel Clark, Chief Medical Officer of Vanderbilt Behavioral Health, to dispel some of the most prevalent myths about this disorder.

Myth: PTSD only affects veterans.

While PTSD is slightly more common among veterans, with 7 out of every 100 veterans experiencing it, there are causes of the disorder other than war and military combat.

Common types of trauma associated with PTSD in a nonmilitary setting include:

  • Childhood and adult abuse (both physical and sexual)
  • Violent crimes or personal attacks, such as mugging, rape or kidnapping
  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes or floods
  • Traumatic accidents such as car or train wrecks
  • Tragedies such as bombings and shootings

“PTSD may be triggered for anyone who has been exposed to a traumatic experience that has made them feel that their life has been threatened, or that they are overwhelmingly helpless in a given situation,” Clark said.

Myth: PTSD occurs immediately after a stressful event.

When people experience PTSD symptoms right after a trauma, they are diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder. When those symptoms last longer than a month, then that person is diagnosed with PTSD.

Typically, people develop PTSD symptoms within the first three months of a trauma. However, evidence has shown that it can develop years later.

“The onset of PTSD symptoms does not necessarily coincide with the traumatic experience itself,” Clark said. “It is not clear why this occurs, although some research has shown that sometimes PTSD symptoms develop after a series of traumatic experiences.”

Myth: PTSD isn’t treatable. 

PTSD can be a chronic illness for some people, but there are a number of treatments available.

Talk therapy can be used to reduce the frequency and severity of the symptoms, as well as help the patient develop skills to manage them. Medications may help ease anxiety, nightmares, panic attacks, depression or anger.

It’s important to seek professional health, as PTSD symptoms can resemble other mental health conditions.

Myth: Individuals with PTSD are violent. 

Statistics from the National Center for PTSD show that the majority of those with PTSD are nonviolent. PTSD symptoms can cause problems with relationships and make it harder to cope with daily life, but treatment can help.

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