Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Misconceptions Surrounding PTSD

Today I've got a guest post from Charlotte talking about the misconceptions surrounding PTSD. So please give her a warm welcome. :)

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Misconceptions around PTSD
I was diagnosed with PTSD 6 years ago and have since encountered a number of misconceptions about this illness which I am going to write about today as part of the excellent Shattering Stigmas series. Obviously, I can only write about my own experiences and so the things I say may not apply to everyone who suffers from PTSD. 

1. You have to have been in the military to suffer from PTSD. Not true. My PTSD developed after a traumatic labour. If you want to know the details, I wrote about that here, and about my early experiences here. PTSD is not just caused by experience of war. It can develop after exposure to any severe trauma, and affects around 1 in 3 people who experience a severe trauma. This could include (but isn’t limited to): abuse, sexual assault, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, witnessing severe violence as well as military combat. 

2. It something that occurs immediately after a traumatic event. For some people this is true, but not for all people. It wasn’t true for me: I was diagnosed about 6 months after the birth of my son, after showing fradually worsening symptoms from about a month after the event. PTSD can develop months or even years after exposure to severe trauma. It is normal to experience distress and upset following a trauma, but this is not diagnosed as PTSD unless the symptoms don’t pass. 

3. People with PTSD are unstable or violent. This can be true for some PTSD sufferers, and it is one of the effects most often conveyed in the media. This is usually caused by an extreme state of hyperarousal: the brain is constantly in fight-or-flight mode, constantly on the look-out for danger and risks and prone to being easily started. This can lead some sufferers to become violent. It can also lead to irritability, difficulty concentrating and sleeping problems. The latter is usually what I experience: I cannot switch my brain off to go to sleep and constantly feel as though something bad is going to happen. 

4. The main symptom is flashbacks. Flashbacks are one of many symptoms. For me, they are a minor symptom: I will have moments, a second or two at a time, where my brain and body feel as though we are experiencing a part of the event. They leave me feeling a bit uneasy, but they are nothing like what is portrayed on the TV and films. Flashbacks (for me) are rarely a linear story – they are small flashes of the event – and they rarely last more than a minute. They have very specific triggers. I am far more likely to suffer from nightmares where I am re-experiencing the event, sleeping difficulties, emotional numbing, anxiety and physical symptoms of stress.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding PTSD and other Mental Illnesses and I am grateful to events like Shattering Stigmas for opening up these conversations. 

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Thank you so much for participating, Charlotte! You can find her on Twitter (@charlotteswhere) and Instagram (@charlottesomewhereblog), and on her blog (Charlotte, Somewhere). 
 

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