To find more topics and series like this, start here

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real, but don’t be discouraged from seeking help by mixed-up ideas about PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t just a condition soldiers suffer from. It affects people from all walks of life. Though it’s becoming more familiar in our culture, there are several myths concerning the causes and effective treatments of PTSD that must be tackled if you’re going to get the help you need.

Myth #1: Only Wartime Trauma Causes PTSD

PTSD is often associated with military veterans. While veterans do experience the disorder at a higher percentage than others, it is important to remember that trauma is not unique to the battlefield. In the United States, for example, 7-8% of people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. While there is a correlation between PTSD and the frequency and severity of traumatic experience(s), any situation in which a person feels powerless, out of control, or unsafe can lead to the disorder.

Myth #2: The Only Aftermath of Trauma is PTSD

God made humans extremely resilient, but there are times when a traumatic experience cannot be immediately overcome. PTSD is one of several possible, prolonged responses to trauma. Other examples include depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.  Individuals may try to escape or numb their emotions through substance abuse or addiction. Others may look for comfort in controlling what they eat, which can lead to an eating disorder.

[Related: Is it Okay to Take Medication for Depression and Anxiety?]

Myth #3: PTSD Is a Terminal Diagnosis with a Poor Prognosis

If left untreated, PTSD can wreak havoc on a person. Anger and irritability can damage relationships and make job retention difficult. The good news is that there are scientifically-supported treatments available. With the help of a mental health professional, an individual can define, face, and overcome their traumatic experience and its effects.

[Related: Does God Heal Emotional Problems?]

Myth #4: God Is Absent in Trauma

People can feel alone and distant from loved ones and from God after experiencing trauma. But God is always with his children. A good reminder of this truth is found in observing how God was present with biblical figures in the midst of struggle. Psalm 10 details one such occasion with King David.

Psalm 10:14 (NIV) But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

David begins by asking God why he is absent and continues to lament for several verses. Then comes 10:14, in which David proclaims not only that God “see[s] the trouble of the afflicted,” but he takes their grief into his hands and encourages them by punishing their oppressors. God wants his children to heal, to be secure, and to dwell in peace.

Most people will face trauma at some point in their lives. These experiences can have side-effects, including PTSD. Just like David, we can feel helpless and alone. But we are not alone. Not only does God hear us, but he is with us.

[Related: When God Is Silent]

If you have suffered any kind of traumatic experience, one way to begin addressing the possible side-effects is to seek out a qualified mental health professional. There is hope.

Talk About It
  1. What is your initial reaction to this topic? What jumped out at you?
  2. Have you ever known someone who suffered from PTSD, or have you ever experienced it yourself? Share a story if you are comfortable.
  3. Read Psalm 10:1. Describe a time when you thought God was absent. How was his presence revealed to you?
  4. Read Psalm 62:5-8. How can we live out these verses?
  5. Read Philippians 4:12-13. How did Paul respond to difficult circumstances? How can we use his example in our own trying times?
  6. What are some appropriate ways to respond to a friend who approaches us seeking guidance in dealing with PTSD or other side-effects of trauma?
  7. How can you seek help for PTSD or other trauma-related issues?
  8. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
David Johnson, PhD, practices at the Ogden Center for Change. Written content for this topic by John Meade.