4 Common Misconceptions about PTSD and How CBT can Support Recovery

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition where someone has been through or witnessed a traumatic situation. The development of the disorder depends on how an individual copes with the experience, rather than the severity of the experience.

The four biggest misconceptions associate with PTSD, are:

  1. Military veterans are the only ones who get PTSD
  2. PTSD is a chronic condition that can't be treated
  3. Everyone who has PTSD is prone to violent behaviour
  4. Having PTSD is a sign of weakness

Firstly, PTSD is commonly linked to military veterans and those who have experienced war to some degree. And while these individuals must address their struggles, people often don't know that PTSD is common for those outside of combat.

Below is a list of some issues where PTSD can arise from:

  • Life-threatening diagnosis
  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Miscarriage or abortion
  • Sexual assault
  • Breakdown of relationship (e.g. divorce)
  • Road traffic accident
  • Natural disaster
  • Being bullied
  • Bereavement (e.g. the actual death of someone)
  • Childbirth
  • ICU survivors

All the above are difficult experiences for people, and the feelings, thoughts and emotions that come with them can stick around long after the experience itself. People living with PTSD (and complex PTSD) often suffer for months or years before finding treatment.

PTSD and trauma symptoms can vary in intensity over time. When stressed in other areas of your life or when you run into reminders of a traumatic event, your symptoms can intensify. For example, if you see a report on the news about a sexual assault, you make feel overcome by memories of your own attack. When a car backfires, you may relive a traumatic combat experience.

A particular concern following the Covid-19 pandemic is those discharged from ICU. Being in intensive care is frightening. There was a specific risk to their own life because they were very ill with minimal information available to medical staff on treatment and scary statistics shared across all media outlets.

Doctors and nurses treating ICU patients wore protective equipment, and with relatives banned from visiting it is considered a very traumatic experience in a variety of ways.

People react to traumatic experiences in several ways. Symptoms of trauma can naturally dissipate after several weeks, however, if signs of trauma continue for longer than a month, PTSD may be present.

Trauma symptoms vary from person to person, but some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Irrational and intense fear
  • Reduced tolerance to noise (hyperacusis)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
  • Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
  • Hypervigilance (On constant 'red alert')
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Being easily moved to tears
  • Panic attacks/anxiety/depression/mood swings
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Tense muscles


People who have PTSD typically tend to re-experience a traumatic event through nightmares, flashbacks and distressing recollections of the situation. Sufferers may also experience emotional numbness and try to avoid trigger situations that remind them of their initial trauma, for example, avoid walking past any cemeteries due to the reminder of losing a loved one suddenly.


It's essential to address how you feel when you have been through or witnessed something traumatic and be aware that it's normal to struggle with these emotions.

It is possible to be successfully treated from PTSD years after the trauma, so it's never too late to seek help.

The chosen treatment for PTSD is CBT, and trauma-focused CBT is recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) for those with severe symptoms. NICE also identifies that EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) has an emerging and increasing evidence base in the treatment of PTSD.

Read our blog on 'Top 5 CBT tips for PTSD'.

Why choose Efficacy for your PTSD recovery?

  • We have excellent recovery rates in the treatment of PTSD, and you can see these results here.
  • We are BABCP accredited - The highest gold standard that a CBT psychotherapist can achieve.
  • We have an 87% recovery rate - This exceeds industry standards which on average report a 52% recovery rate.
  • Rapid service - You don't have to worry about battling long waiting lists to speak to someone and start feeling better. You can begin the online or remote therapy program within days.


To find out more about our CBT treatment for PTSD or other psychological and emotional problems, please give us a call on 0203 795 8718 or email info@efficacy.org.uk.

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