5 Myths About PTSD

Published on: June 21, 2021 

Approximately 8 million Americans are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet many struggling with PTSD symptoms may not even realize the source of their problem due to myths and misunderstandings about PTSD. Read on to learn the facts.

Myth #1: PTSD Only Affects Military Veterans

Although an estimated 30 percent of soldiers returning from war are diagnosed with PTSD, the condition can develop in anyone, including children. About 8 percent of the general population is estimated to have full-blown PTSD. An additional 5 to 15 percent may experience partial symptoms of PTSD. In addition, 10 percent of all women develop PTSD during their lifetime, more than twice the rate of men. Experiences that can cause PTSD to include:

  • Wartime combat stress
  • Traumatic life events such as sexual or physical assault
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Death of a loved one or abandonment
  • Serious accident
  • Natural disaster

In addition to these experiences, risk factors for PTSD include a family history of depression and anxiety, having a previous diagnosis of depression or anxiety, and substance abuse such as excessive drinking or drug use.

Myth #2:  PTSD Happens Right After a Traumatic Event

PTSD symptoms often arise within the first 3 months after a traumatic event. However, in many cases, it can take longer, even years, for symptoms to appear. Symptoms may also be episodic in nature, coming and going through the years. This is often the case with victims of childhood abuse. So much time may have passed since the original trauma that you may not associate your symptoms with what occurred in the past. 

How can you tell if you have PTSD? Symptoms include recurrent distressing memories, dreams or flashbacks, and intense physical and emotional reactions to cues that represent the traumatic event.

Myth #3: PTSD Only Affects Victims of Direct Violence

You don’t need to have experienced trauma directly to develop symptoms of PTSD. You can be diagnosed with PTSD if exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one or more of the following ways:

  • Directly experiencing the traumatic event.
  • Witnessing, in person, the event occurs to others.
  • Learning that a violent or accidental traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend.
  • Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to adverse details of the traumatic event (e.g., first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse).

Myth #4: If I Can’t Get Over PTSD Myself, I Must Be Weak

It may seem a mystery why some people can get through major trauma with little help, while others struggle with persistent symptoms of PTSD. However, according to Harvard Medical School, 30 percent of PTSD cases are explained by genetics alone. That means certain individuals are more susceptible to developing PTSD.

So how does PTSD develop? When trauma occurs, the brain’s alarm system, or amygdala, triggers a fear response to make you react and to keep you safe. Normally, the brain’s prefrontal cortex helps regulate emotional responses triggered by the amygdala. But PTSD causes these two areas of the brain to malfunction. When this occurs, your brain is not able to distinguish safe events that are happening now from dangerous events that happened in the past. It’s not a matter of being weak; it’s simply a misfunction that occurs in the brain. For some people exposed to trauma, their brains get stuck in this pattern and they need help returning their brain function to a more normal pattern.

Myth #5: If I have PTSD, I’m Damaged Forever

If you suffer from symptoms of PTSD, there are a variety of treatments to help cure this condition. Effective treatments for PTSD include both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.


Psychotherapeutic approaches for patients with PTSD include behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, hypnosis, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). In addition to individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy can also be helpful. Group therapy lets participants share their traumatic experiences and receive support from other group members. Family therapy often helps sustain a marriage or partnership through periods of exacerbated symptoms.


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) and Selective Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine (Effexor) are prescribed to reduce PTSD symptoms and are considered first-line treatments. Other drugs shown to be effective include tricyclic drugs imipramine (Tofranil) and amitriptyline (Elavil). Classes of medications that are often used alongside SSRIs or SNRIs for adequate treatment of PTSD include benzodiazepines, mood stabilizers, hypnotics, and antipsychotics.

Other Novel Treatment Methods

Because not everyone attains relief from established medications or therapy, researchers continue to study other possible treatment methods for PTSD. New approaches being studied include:

  • Transcranial magnet stimulation (TMS)
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Virtual reality desensitizing therapy
  • Neuroactive steroid medications
  • Ketamine and other psychedelic drugs
  • High-dose mifepristone tablets
  • Stellate ganglion block (SGB) injections
  • Cannabis and cannabinoids (CBD)

For more information about PTSD, visit our Mental Health Library page dedicated to PTSD and other trauma-related disorders. If you would like help from our mental health team for your PTSD symptoms, please submit an appointment request or call us at  (800) 457-4573.

3 comments on “5 Myths About PTSD”

  1. I’m trying desperately to find my old self. I had a traumatic event with my wife disclosing my addiction behind my back.
    I can feel how changed I am; I’m never happy since the event; no peace of mind; isolating myself from others.
    I want my wife to be happy and is just don’t see an end in sight. I’m desparate for this to get better.
    Please contact me back with any alternative therapies. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Steve,
    I’m not sure if it will help but I belong to several addiction recovery groups on Facebook. There are also PTSD support groups that I’ve personally found helpful in processing some of my trauma. Although it isn’t treatment it can be helpful in that they show support during difficult times. I suffer from CPTSD and have found this more helpful than all the medications they’ve tried. It’s not a substitute for a good therapist but if you’re unable to obtain treatment it’s better than isolating yourself. I have found that having someone to talk to who isn’t personally invested in your life is priceless but can be found for free. Good luck to you.
    Jean Parton

  3. I've been depressed for more than 15 years don't like going out with anyone just go to work cause I have to than come home and just want to be left alone I close myself in my room

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