I have written extensively elsewhere on this site about how severe childhood trauma can lead to, amongst many other psychological conditions, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). For example, click here to read one of my articles on the topic.
Table of signs and symptoms of PTSD :
However, amongst the general public, certain myths have developed in connection with what PTSD is, how the condition manifests itself and who it affects.
It is these I want to look at in this article :
PTSD – FACTS AND FICTION :
MYTH 1 – PTSD can only be caused by traumatic war experiences.
In fact, nearly three quarters of people in USA will experience a severe trauma at some point in their lives. Of these, about one fifth will go on to develop symptoms which are severe enough and long-lasting enough to be clinically classified as PTSD.
Taking the two above statistics above, it clearly follows that about 15% of people in the USA will suffer from PTSD at some point during their lives.
Whilst traumatic war experiences are indeed one cause of PTSD (what used to be called ‘shell shock’) many other life experiences also lead to the condition; these include natural disasters, being the victim of a serious physical attack and SEVERE CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.
Statistics also show that women are about twice as likely to suffer from PTSD as men are at any given time (this is thought to be connected to the fact that women are more likely to suffer from sexual abuse).
A further breakdown of statistics is shown on the table below:
MYTH 2 – Those who develop a psychological condition after a trauma are weak – they should be able to move on with their lives and put it behind them.
Developing PTSD has nothing to do with weakness. Everybody is potentially at risk of developing PTSD given particular experiences, it is just that different experiences affect people in different ways.
Indeed, research now shows that severe and prolonged trauma, particularly in CHILDHOOD, can adversely affect the physical development of the brain (click here to read my article on this) which can in turn make the individual vulnerable to developing not only PTSD but, also BPD (borderline personality disorder), severe anxiety and depression. THIS CAN IN NO WAY BE CONSTRUED AS THE INDIVIDUAL’S FAULT.
In such a situation, however, intensive therapy can help to reverse any harm that was done to the developing brain due to a brain quality known as neuroplasticity (click here to read one of my articles on this).
MYTH 3 – People develop PTSD immediately after the traumatic event that triggered it.
This is not always the case. It is true that if the severely traumatic experience is a one-off event, such as being violently mugged, symptoms of PTSD do tend to occur soon afterwards.
However, in the case of childhood abuse, which may have extended over a period of years, full blown PTSD may not develop for many years after the abuse has ended (click here to read my article explaining why this is).
It is for this reason that, in many cases, people do not realize that they have PTSD and therefore erroneously blame themselves for how they feel and behave (eg they may be prone to outbursts of extreme anger and rage).
And even if they realize they seem to have a condition similar to PTSD, they do not link it to their traumatic childhood experiences.
Unfortunately, this means many PTSD sufferers who could benefit from therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) are not getting the help which could, potentially, dramatically improve their lives.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).