Myths and Facts about PTSD By Harold Cohen, Ph.D.

Myth: PTSD is only seen in people with “weak characters” who are unable to cope with difficult situations in the same way that most of us do.

PTSD is a human response to markedly abnormal situations, and it involves specific chemical changes in the brain that occur in response to a person experiencing a traumatic event. Many of the symptoms of PTSD seem to be a direct result of such brain changes.

All of us have been through frightening experiences and have at least one symptom of PTSD as a result of that experience.

Although memories of frightening experiences may be similar to symptoms of PTSD (e.g., vivid memories), most persons do not have the severity of symptoms or impairment associated with PTSD. The specific brain-based responses seen in PTSD differ from those seen in normal anxiety. Similarly, the experiences of normal anxiety and of PTSD are markedly different.

Myth: Stress reactions to trauma exist, but these should not be considered as a serious medical problem.

PTSD is a medical disorder that can sometimes cause serious disability. Persons with PTSD often also have co-occurring mood, anxiety, and substance-related disorders. In addition, these people may have significant difficulty at their job, in their personal relationships, or other social interactions.

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