Post Traumatic Stress, Myths and Misconseptions
The word “Disorder” was deliberately omitted from the title. Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is enough to deal with, without dealing with the stigma and emotional discomfort the word creates. Aren’t people dealing with PTS already uncomfortable enough? And whether the D is “officially” there or not, both deserve and require the same attention.
In spite of all the research done, myths and misconceptions are rampant among those with PTS, their loved ones and the general public. Here are few of the more frequently encountered, during the course of more than 15 years of first hand experience utilizing EFT with veterans and civilians dealing with PTS, or PTSD if you must.
1. PTS is only caused by major traumatic events
Many don’t think they have PTS, since their mindset is they never experienced (or recall) a genuinely traumatic event(s). It is actually something you can be born with due to generational factors, or circumstances that took place while being carried in the womb. And, it can manifest due to the cumulative influence of multiple unpleasant and stressful events. This represents a few and not all the reasons people may have PTS and not realize it, or understand why they feel and act the way they do.
2. It is a sign of weakness
It is absolutely not, but unfortunately this myth is more common than you may think. Frequently the idea is the result of conditioning and it is held as emotional belief – not just by those dealing with PTS but others around them, who often can’t understand why they can’t just get over it. PTS is a natural response to what we experience, witness and endure. When it is said that: “the most common outcome following trauma is one of recovery and resiliency.”, doesn’t it make you wonder how that conclusion could be reached with certainty? What equates to an anthill to one, can be Mt. Vesuvius to another.
3. It makes you violent or dangerous
The media hasn’t done anyone with PTS any favors when they emphasize following a tragic event that the offender was being evaluated or had been diagnosed with PTS. Every time violence is linked to PTS it causes more to go into isolation and away from seeking help.
While some of the symptoms can include anger, irritability, being on edge and/or easily startled, and sounds like a recipe for violence to many, it is not accurate. When it comes to violence, rather than focus solely on PTS, the cumulative affects of all the contributing factors are needed to reveal the more complex story.
Many research projects include too few subjects and sometimes lead us to false conclusions. However, research in 2014 concluded that veterans with PTS who didn’t abuse alcohol had no higher risk of violence.
4. Not everything is traumatic
With all due respect, please speak only for yourself. Some have endured so much that things that might feel mildly stressful to you, are traumatic for them. Umbrage is taken with those who feel the need to qualify someone else’s experience as really traumatic or just stressful. Yes, it is understood that for the purpose of diagnosis, qualifying factors have to be defined. However, unless that’s your job and responsibility, please understand it is impossible for anyone to know what represents a traumatizing experience to someone else. Here’s a perfect example for you: In a training class, during a cravings demonstration chocolate placed in front of a student triggered intense emotions and sobbing. There was of course a history attached, but is that a reaction you would have expected?
5. You weren’t injured.
Well perhaps because so many traumas are unthinkable or unspeakable to others, many question its impact, unless they too have experienced major trauma. But PTS is an “injury” that isn’t always obvious or visible. A commonly voiced frustration by those with PTS, “They tell me I don’t look like anything is wrong.”
There is a need to lead the charge to reduce the stigma of seeing it as a “mental condition” and view it as we would a physical injury. No one wants to be told they have a “disorder”. Did you know PTS is the only “psychological condition” that must be caused by an outside event? That opinion comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and could definitely be argued, but in the moment, that’s the way it stands.
6. PTS symptoms usually appear within the first 3 months
Symptoms can be dormant for years, appear, amplify and change at any time. There are cases where symptoms didn’t manifest until 10 years later. Others do an amazing job of keeping it together for extended periods of time (those Invisible Heroes some may have heard me mention), only to finally find themselves triggered typically by external circumstances, unable to ignore or hide it any longer. There is more to this, but most important is understanding that each situation is unique unto itself.
7. Those with PTS can’t function in work environments
Most can do their jobs effectively and efficiently, some finding it more difficult than others. With the proper support system and treatment, it can not only be managed, but also conquered.
There are many more myths and misconceptions that contribute to the stigma. Reconsidering these for a start, could lead to a better understanding and provide greater support.
Thanks for helping to raise the level of awareness. Would love to hear your thoughts and as always, your questions and comments are appreciated.