A doctor comforts a ptsd patient

PTSD Myths

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental condition that develops as the result of witnessing or experiencing a terrifying or traumatic event. There are many myths that surround this condition, since it is not very widely understood. Here are some of the biggest misconceptions about PTSD and the truth about this condition.

PTSD is a sign of weakness.

PTSD is not a sign of weakness, either mentally or emotionally. There are several factors that can influence someone’s personal ability to recovery from trauma that have nothing to do with internal strength: the severity of the trauma, the type of trauma, the number of traumas, the duration of the trauma, and the neurological way that your body naturally responds to stress.

Anything can be “traumatic.”

Some people believe that someone suffering from PTSD effects is just being dramatic, since the definition of “trauma” can be very broad. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-V) describes very specific criteria for classifying an event as “traumatic” in nature. These criteria include: (1) “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence,” and (2) “directly experiencing the event, witnessing it in person, or being indirectly exposed to the event.” Indirect exposure could include someone who repeatedly hears or sees the details of a traumatic event. It does not include exposure through the media. Death of a loved one due to natural causes also does not qualify as “traumatic" in this sense. 

People with PTSD are crazy and/or dangerous to people around them.

Sensationalized media coverage and classic war movies have all contributed to the image of the “crazy war veteran” stereotype. However, this depiction is completely inaccurate. PTSD is not characterized by violence or psychosis at all. Rather, the symptoms of PTSD center mostly around coping with the memory and implications of a traumatic experience, which manifest as changes in mood and distressing memories and dreams.

People with PTSD are unable to function in work or military environments.

A PTSD diagnosis does not mean that your career is over. It is perfectly plausible for someone with PTSD to still be able to effectively do their job, even if it involves the military. A diagnosis of PTSD is completely manageable and treatable if you are willing to seek treatment for your condition and learn ways of coping with and overcoming the symptoms.

Everyone who experiences a traumatic event with develop PTSD.

While there are many qualifying events for PTSD, most people who experience these events will not go on to develop the condition. And out of those who do, most will see a natural decrease in their symptoms after a few months have passed. Just because you are exposed to a traumatic event does not mean that you will develop PTSD.

Last Updated: April 21, 2017