Misconceptions about people with PTSD

Monday, 7 June 2021

Over 1 million Australians have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it is still a very misunderstood mental health condition.

27th June is PTSD Awareness Day, which is designed to raise awareness of PTSD and help more people access the treatment they need to recover and adjust.

In our 30 years of disability employment, we’ve helped countless people with PTSD find their dream job and reach their potential. Unfortunately, whenever we share a story about how someone with PTSD is thriving in their job, career, or life, we still get the same negative and misconceived comments.

For PTSD Awareness Day this year, we’re sharing some of the comments we have gotten about PTSD and breaking down their misconceptions.

A Facebook comment that says: "PTSD? But you've never been to war."

1. Myth: Only war veterans can have PTSD

Fact: PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced, witnessed, or been exposed to a traumatic event.

PTSD is most commonly associated with war veterans, and it’s true many are at an increased risk of PTSD due to the violent and stressful nature of service. But they are not the only people who can have PTSD.

PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event or repeated exposure to trauma. People might find this event scary, they might feel hopeless, or they might fear for their life or others’. This might include car accidents, natural disasters, neglect or abuse, medical diagnoses, and bullying.

Although most people will experience some form of trauma during their lifetime, not everyone develops PTSD.

Bevan, Talia and Marie stand together smiling in the Bird's Nest Restaurant
Talia has PTSD and she has been kicking goals at her job at Bird’s Nest. Bird’s Nest supports their employees with mental health conditions by striving to understand them and their condition.
A Facebook comment that says: "I think I got PTSD from that meeting. It was so long and boring."

2. Myth: PTSD is all in the head. It does not exist.

Fact: PTSD is a mental health condition. It is not a word to describe something bad, annoying, or overwhelming.

PTSD is a recognised mental health condition that changes the structure of your brain. It is not a sign of weakness.

Just like people with other health conditions, such as cancer or heart disease, PTSD changes your body and that takes time to adjust to and recover from. People with PTSD cannot simply “get over it” or “move on.” Everyone deals with their health as best as they can and recovery – whether that is through medication, counselling, or other supports – is a journey.

It can be extremely damaging when people casually trivialise PTSD by likening it to something bad or annoying, or by suggesting someone’s trauma is not valid. When someone with PTSD is struggling, they need empathy and guidance, not to be told they’re overacting or that they should just toughen up.

A Facebook comment that says: "PTSD is a danger to the workplace."

3. Myth: People with PTSD are violent and dangerous to be around.

Fact: People with PTSD are not usually violent or dangerous.

PTSD can be extremely distressing for the person experiencing it. PTSD has a variety of symptoms and everyone deals with these symptoms in different ways – most will withdraw, some may have difficulty concentrating, and some may have intrusive thoughts.

It is very rare for someone with PTSD to be aggressive. Less than 8 percent of people with PTSD experience violent behaviour, and research shows this is due to other co-occurring conditions, rather than PTSD itself.

It is perfectly safe to work with and hold relationships with people with PTSD. In fact, people with PTSD can be wonderful additions to the workforce.

A Facebook comment that says: "I don't think you can work if you have PTSD."

4. Myth: People with PTSD cannot function.

Fact: People with PTSD can work meaningful jobs – and excel at them!

Although PTSD can be persistent and far-reaching, there are treatment options available to help people with PTSD address symptoms and adjust to life post-trauma.

For many people, it may not be possible to continue work while struggling with their symptoms. It can be difficult to persist through the chores and responsibilities of any job when you are unwell or dealing with a health condition.

But with time and the support of treatment, people with PTSD can live happy and active lives in their community and contribute much expertise and knowledge to their workplace.

A Facebook comment that says: "You cannot work as a medic if you have PTSD unless you want more deaths."

5. Myth: People with PTSD can only work certain jobs.

Fact: People with PTSD can work in a wide variety of workplaces.

Everyone is an individual, and what may be the perfect job for one person may not be the right fit for another.

There are many people with PTSD who work and excel in high-paced environments. Whether that’s as a paramedic, police office, chef, receptionist, teacher, or business worker, you should not limit someone’s job options simply because they have a mental health condition.

Rebecca smiles and stands in front of a line of parked ambulances. She is wearing an all blue paramedic uniform
Rebecca lives with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), depression, anxiety and insomnia. She worked with EPIC and various psychologists and psychiatrists to find the right support for her mental health.

EPIC Assist is your local disability employment service

Here at EPIC Assist, we believe everyone has a right to meaningful employment.

If you or someone you know has a disability, injury, mental health condition, or health condition, we can help them prepare for, find, and keep a job they love.

If you are an employer looking to open more diverse and inclusive opportunities in your business, we can connect you with job-ready candidates with disability and break down barriers to hiring people with disability.

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