By Debbie Gregory.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be experienced by anyone after witnessing or enduring a traumatic event. While PTSD has recently become intertwined with the post-war experience of many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, anyone can suffer from it. In fact, nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population will experience some level of the disorder in their lifetime. Still, the general public continues to believe myths and misconceptions about the disorder as people both in and out of the military struggle to recover.
The most common misconceptions:
- PTSD is in your head, it’s something you make up. As previously stated, PTSD may occur after someone is involved or witnesses a traumatic experience. Symptoms may not surface for hours or years afterwards. Often, classic PTSD symptoms such as nightmares, hyper-vigilance, short-temper, social disconnect or the feeling of always being on-edge may be triggered by later events. The trigger could be the anniversary of the trauma, loud noises, or stressful situations. Those who suffer from PTSD view the world differently, because in order to process the pain, their brains function differently following the trauma.
- Weak people suffer from PTSD. There is no one type of personality prone to suffering from PTSD. Many recent military leaders and Medal of Honor recipients have publicly documented their struggles with PTSD to encourage others to seek help.
- Only wounded soldiers suffer from PTSD. Anyone who has suffered a traumatic or highly stressful event can suffer from PTSD. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, many of the civilian rescue crews who picked through the rubble to locate victim’s bodies suffered PTSD. They were never harmed, and may not have been present on the day of the attack, but the process of cleaning up was stressful and damaging enough to prompt the onset of PTSD.
- Why doesn’t everyone who has suffered a trauma experience PTSD? It takes more than a horrible event to cause an individual to suffer PTSD. Researchers have found that many things play a role in determining who will develop PTSD, including genetics, past history of other traumas and the degree or duration of their exposure to traumatic events. Not everyone will develop PTSD after a traumatic event. However, for those that do, the disorder is a very real and difficult struggle.
If you or someone you know is or might be suffering from PTSD, take action and ask for help. Every branch of the military has developed programs to help servicemembers work toward recovery.
Check for resources at the National Directory (NRD),the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as the Services’ wounded warrior programs: Navy Safe Harbor, Army Wounded Warrior (AW2), Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2), the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment (USMCWWR) and the USSOCOM Care Coalition.