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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t something that only happens to people in the military. Anyone who suffers a traumatic experience or long-term abuse can develop PTSD. Those who suffer from it struggle to escape the immediate fear reaction brought on by a previous experience. Here are a few things people usually get wrong about PTSD.

It Doesn’t Require Combat-Levels of Stress

A sudden, jarring experience can lead to mild PTSD that may manifest as avoidance. For example, car accidents frequently cause PTSD. Drivers may work to avoid particular intersections or certain moves. For example, they might avoid turning left if they’ve been in a wreck while doing so. PTSD can also bring on anxiety levels that mimic a panic attack. Someone who’s suffered an abusive childhood may panic when a romantic partner reaches to touch their face. The reaction is instantaneous and illogical, and it can bring up feelings and memories that are as strong and frightening as the day of the abuse.

It Doesn’t Always Make People Violent

Simply because someone has survived violence does not necessarily make them violent. PTSD is a trauma that has been suffered, not one the victim wishes to inflict on others. The Hollywood depiction of PTSD sufferers as trigger-happy monsters who can’t tell the difference between an enemy and a neighbor are simplistic and shortsighted. The idea that a PTSD sufferer will plot out a killing spree flies in the face of the condition. When triggered, PTSD sufferers may push away from someone who gets too close or quickly leave a room to get away from what feels threatening, but their intention is to escape rather than inflict harm. The vilification of war veterans who suffer from PTSD is particularly harmful, as it isolates returning veterans from the community they badly need.

Stress Management and PTSD

Those who suffer from PTSD may find that too much daily stress in life can increase the frequency and severity of PTSD panics. Sometimes, this stress is brought on by trying to stave off the memories of trauma. Instead, sufferers may find that by working with trained professionals they can reduce the impact of traumatic memories and create a logical break between stressor and response. For example, if a person has trauma from childhood abuse and sees someone with the same body type of their abuser, they may immediately fear that person and feel the need to get away. This fear reaction is known as a “stuck point” and refers to the very real but illogical reaction to a trigger. Therapy can help the sufferer understand the stuck point and help them see the person as someone separate from their abuser.

PTSD is actually a perfectly normal response to a terrible event. Those suffering from PTSD are doing their best to leave behind horrible experiences. With some counseling and the use of simple methods such as meditation, yoga or aromatherapy to eliminate daily stress, those suffering from PTSD can learn to free themselves of an automatic response.

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