Opening Doors Once Closed by PTSD Stigma


Nearly 24 million people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point during their lifetime, and only half will seek treatment. Some hope that the nightmares, anxieties and other symptoms will dissolve on their own. Others fear that if family or employers knew of their mental stress they would be viewed unfavorably.

Traumatic events encountered through warfare, domestic violence, automobile accidents or other violent and tragic events can cause recurring anxieties in the people who witnessed or experienced them. These post-traumatic events can produce nightmares or repetitive, disturbing memories. Some people with PTSD avoid places or people associated with negative memories. This avoidance often disrupts the natural flow of their lives.

Many people with PTSD fully recover with time, support, specialists and medication. If employers, family members and friends can educate others on the facts and erase the fallacies of PTSD, then individuals with PTSD will feel more comfortable seeking treatment and can recover sooner.

Myths About Personality

There are news stories of veterans returning home who acted violently with their family or friends. Sometimes the public assumes that PTSD is to blame, but the disorder isn’t what makes a person violent.

The Rand Corporation reported that one in five veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq experience symptoms of depression or PTSD. The Vietnam War caused 30 percent more veterans to have PTSD symptoms when they returned home. Most of their stories are never heard. These veterans worked through their PTSD symptoms alone, not wanting to draw attention to their mental illness for fear of not being seen the same in the eyes of their employer, family and friends. They feel that they cannot accept the help of mental health professionals because then the people close to them will know of their mental illness. In truth, they are strong in character and hopeful for the future.

Myths about Employment

One major reason that people with PTSD symptoms do not seek treatment is because they are concerned that no one will hire them, or that they will lose their current job. Because of the negative comments and misunderstanding, employers may be hesitant to welcome home a veteran, and co-workers may fear working next to them. These unjustifiable fears harm the reputation of a person with PTSD.

Employers can educate their employees about the symptoms of PTSD and let them know that it is a curable mental illness that is not dangerous to them. Education will help supervisors and co-workers see the person behind the illness. The employee with PTSD can be just as dependable and hardworking as any other person. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill reported that people with mental illnesses show just as much productivity in their workplace as other employees.

Myths about Treatment and Recovery

People who have symptoms of PTSD have a very good chance of full recovery. There are many different ways that people react to traumatic situations, and each person has a chance to heal in their own way. With help from mental health specialists, doctors and support groups, those with PTSD can heal more quickly. When family members educate themselves and others about the mental illness the fears and anxieties of others can also be cured. Oftentimes the people who live and work with PTSD sufferers must overcome their own fears and anxieties.

Stigmas are obstacles that can hinder the healing of individuals. By respecting an individual with PTSD and treating them with dignity and trust they can be welcomed back joyfully into their community.

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