The “fake news” phenomenon is not limited to just news. Inaccuracies run rampant all across all forms of media. From pop culture to social media, we are falling victim to artificial intelligence algorithms. The deceptions are convincing. The fallout can be bad news. Let’s take, for example, media depictions as they relate to mental health. The topic is common. But how much truth should we expect to find?
Trauma is often the subject of everything from feature films to feel-good news features. Amidst the window dressing, you will certainly find some useful facts. But on-screen trauma rarely matches up with IRL trauma.
What Do You Mean By Trauma?
The many events or ongoing incidents we are exposed to can impact us in many ways. When those events are dangerous or abusive, we may experience trauma. In such a case, your overall wellness is damaged in every possible way:
Traumatic events are very much in the eye of the beholder. Even so, many common examples exist, e.g.
- Abandonment or neglect
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Accident, injury, or illness
- Loss of loved one
- Victim of crime, war, or terrorism
- Natural disaster
Exposure to trauma may result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that causes nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, withdrawal and isolation, insomnia, a wide range of physical symptoms, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
What You Shouldn’t Believe About Media Depictions of Trauma
Only “Big” Traumas Can Cause Lingering Problems
To repeat, trauma is in the eye of the beholder. If we were to believe Hollywood, you’d have to be Tony Stark to understand. Defending Earth against aliens — now there is a good reason to feel traumatized. Reality: A child being neglected is just as traumatic. It is just as valid a reason to care and help them.
PTSD is a Soldier’s Disorder
Yes, PTSD is a big problem for returning soldiers all across the globe. The media can sometimes make us think they are the only victims. This false narrative can make it harder for civilians to reach out for help. They may feel like posers compared to someone who has survived a war zone. Unfortunately, this mindset can infect medical practitioners. Thanks to the content they consume, they could end up taking civilian PTSD less seriously.
Trauma is a Man’s World
Fact: Almost twice as many women are diagnosed with PTSD than men. Part of this discrepancy is sexual assault Twenty-five percent of women by age 44. For men, the number is 8 percent. In addition, women are far more often victimized by sexual assault as children. Childhood traumatic events can set you up for a lifetime of emotional problems.
Trauma is treatable… but not in the classic “happy ending” kind of way. A 2018 study revealed something they called “Grey’s Anatomy effect.” One of the study’s conclusions read: “Television portrayal of rapid functional recovery after major injury may cultivate false expectations among patients and their families.”
Then, of course, you have the media sensationalizing stories and contributing to the trauma. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, news outlets did us no favor with their focus on gloom and doom. Taking regular device breaks is highly recommended to avoid this trend.
Getting the Right Kind of Help For Your Trauma
If you have experienced trauma, please don’t expect validation from media depictions. To get that, you must reach out to a qualified mental health practitioner. Trauma is treatable but very much requires professional help. A good place to start is reading about anxiety therapy. Let’s connect for a confidential consultation and get the healing started. We’ll leave the fictional portrayals behind and focus on the real issues.
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