What is PTSD? – Misconceptions

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. There are many misconceptions surrounding PTSD, which can lead to misunderstanding and stigma. In this blog, we will explore what PTSD is not, in order to help increase understanding and awareness of this complex condition.

  1. PTSD is not a sign of weakness: PTSD is not a weakness or a character flaw. It is a natural response to a traumatic event that can happen to anyone. People with PTSD are just stuck with the natural response (Resick et.al.). 
  2. PTSD is not just for military personnel: While PTSD is commonly associated with military personnel, anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event can develop PTSD, including survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, natural disasters, and accidents (NIMH).
  3. PTSD is not just about flashbacks: Flashbacks are a symptom of PTSD, but they are not the only symptom. Other symptoms of PTSD may include avoidance, negative changes in mood and cognition, and hyperarousal (Trauma- and Stressor-Related   Disorders, 2022)
  4. PTSD is not a choice:  PTSD is not something that people can “Snap out of”. Nor is it something that is “All in your head.” There are complex interactions between a person’s mind, physiology, emotional state and behavior that can keep someone stuck with PTSD.
  5. PTSD is not a temporary condition: PTSD is a chronic mental health condition that can last for many years without proper treatment. It is not a temporary condition that will go away on its own.
  6. PTSD is not only caused by combat: While PTSD is often associated with combat, it can develop after any traumatic event, including physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, or accidents.  However it is also important to know that it does not always develop after combat or exposure to traumatic events – “Just because you were exposed to trauma it doesn’t mean you will end up with PTSD”. It is estimated that 75% of Australian adults have experienced a traumatic event at some point in their life (AIHW),
  7. PTSD is not a rare condition. According to the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020–2022, an estimated 11% of Australians experience PTSD in their life (lifetime prevalence), with women being at almost twice the risk of men (14% and 8%, respectively)(AIHW).

Seeking Help

In conclusion, PTSD is one of a number of mental health problems that may occur after traumatic events, and there are many things that it is not. Many of these misconceptions only serve to stigmatize people and create barriers to seeking help. There are effective therapies for PTSD .

At the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne, our team of experienced psychologists specializes in the treatment of PTSD and other mental health conditions. We offer a range of evidence-based therapies, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD. To book an appointment, call us at 03 9077 0122 or book online at https://ccp.net.au/booking/.


Resick, P. A., Monson, C. M., & Chard, K. M. (2017). Cognitive processing therapy for PTSD: A comprehensive manual. The Guilford Press.

NIMH (n.d.) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd

Trauma- and Stressor-Related   Disorders. (2022). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1–0). American Psychiatric Association Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425787.x07_Trauma_and_Stressor_Related_Disorders

AIHW (n.d.) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare