More than 12 million Americans over the age of 18 are believed to have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year, according to the National Center for PTSD.

The condition can be difficult to identify for a person suffering from it, and for medical and clinical professionals who are a part of their treatment team. People experiencing PTSD often dismiss their own trauma, experience intense shame, avoid talking about their trauma, and/or believe that they cannot handle the consequences of thinking about their trauma. As a result, many professionals who work with these individuals may not be aware of their trauma history.

PTSD can also be easily confused with other conditions that deal with emotional dysregulation, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Common PTSD myths. Because of the shame and avoidance that often surrounds PTSD, it remains confusing to the public and many myths exist. Some of the most common are:

  • Only military vets have PTSD. Injury, abuse, accidents, complicated grief, natural disasters, or assaults can cause PTSD as well.
  • If you don’t experience immediate symptoms, you can’t have PTSD. While it’s common for symptoms to begin within three months, sometimes they don’t surface until much later.
  • In time, PTSD will go away on its own. Most studies show if symptoms persist for more than a year, they will not subside without treatment that specifically treats PTSD.
  • PTSD symptoms look the same for everyone. Symptoms vary from person to person. Some people don’t experience flashbacks or nightmares.
  • There are no effective treatments for PTSD. Currently, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE) therapy have been listed as strongly recommended by the American Psychological Association for PTSD. Other treatment options, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), have been proven effective in some populations.

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