Like many things related to mental health and well-being, misconceptions and myths abound when talking about PTSD. These misconceptions can be hurtful and perplexing to those living with post-traumatic stress disorder and should be countered with facts and understanding when necessary. Below are 6 common misconceptions about PTSD in veterans.
PTSD Makes it Hard to Have Meaningful Relationships
One common misconception is that veterans suffering from PTSD are incapable of maintaining many of the relationships they had prior to their military service or forming new ones. While PTSD often goes undiagnosed, the vast majority of people who leave the military do not have PTSD.
Suffering from PTSD does not preclude a person from keeping old relationships or forming new ones and healthy interpersonal relationships, including those with friends, family, coworkers and support workers are crucial for helping veterans transition back into civilian life and even deal with PTSD symptoms.
Military Vets Are The Only Ones Who Get PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder has, unfortunately, come to be associated, while perhaps not exclusively, to a very disproportionate degree with military combat veterans. While PTSD is a real and common phenomenon among those who have served in combat roles, and the diagnosis was first given to military veterans following the Vietnam war, it applies to a wide range of people and scenarios.
PTSD is experienced by those who have lived through natural disasters, violent crime, sexual assault, and by people who have lost friends and family. The idea that people live with the after-effects of traumatic emotional experiences is an intuitive and self-evident one and PTSD should certainly not be thought of as something that one can only experience if they have served on the front lines of a war.
PTSD Cannot be Overcome
Another common myth that many people who may not have a veteran in their life or family believe is that PTSD is an indelible mark on a person and will impact their life forever. While PTSD is something that can linger for a long time in people, veteran or otherwise, especially if it is not addressed, treated and managed, people who, at one point, suffer from PTSD can move past it psychologically.
There are five stages to PTSD: the impact or emergency stage, the denial or numbing stage, the rescue stage, the short-term recovery stage, and the long-term recovery stage. The final stage is where people learn to reconstruct their lives and develop important coping mechanisms that they can use in the future when they feel stressed or overwhelmed or find themselves facing a triggering event.
PTSD Manifests The Same
Each person experiences PTSD in their own way with varying symptoms and severity. Some vets suffer from nightmares and have difficulty concentrating. Others relive their trauma through constant intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. If you are working with a healthcare provider, they will not take a one-size-fits-all approach and instead will come up with something tailored to your unique needs as a veteran.
PTSD Is Only Experienced By Vets With Combat Experience
There are many occasions during which a traumatic experience might occur and they are not exclusive to combat. It is possible for traumatic events to happen during training, deployment and even while at home. A traumatic experience might involve an injury sustained while completing training or a near-death experience that occurred. It could involve a tragic experience with a loved one prior to deployment that is then experienced as post-traumatic stress while overseas and a wide variety of other potential experiences.
The bottom line is that it is a myth to assume that PTSD can only be real for those who have had harrowing and traumatic combat experiences. Veterans go through a wide range of intense experiences both during, before and after deployment, all of which could potentially lead to the development of PTSD symptoms.
PTSD Makes a Person Unhirable
While veterans face many job market difficulties following their discharge from the military, and PTSD can often be part of a much larger and more complicated dynamic, having PTSD in no way precludes a vet from finding and holding down meaningful work. When veterans seek treatment and work towards a path of recovery and good mental health, they are perfectly capable of leveraging the many useful skills and experiences from their military careers to find rewarding careers and financial stability.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be debilitating and life-altering but its effects are often exacerbated by the persistence of the various myths surrounding it. You don't need to have served in combat to be affected by it and your life doesn't end if you suffer from it.
Popular media has stigmatized and misconstrued PTSD in various ways and the end result is a civilian populace that is largely uninformed on the matter. Whether you are a veteran, someone who knows one, or simply a concerned citizen, keep the above misconception in mind and help dispel them when and where you encounter them.