It seems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is in the news every day, but what does it mean? Don’t let the PTSD meaning get lost solely in the media’s coverage of the military.
What does POST mean?
Post means “after”. So, we’re talking about some kind of stress that happens AFTER a trauma.
What is a trauma that causes PTSD?
It depends on who you go by. The PTSD meaning according to the originators of the actual medical diagnosis, the American Psychiatric Association (1980), still argue that it’s supposed to be a “life threatening”, or near-life threatening event that could have killed the survivor.Of course, there is such thing as “Secondary PTSD” that can affect police, healthcare workers, fire departments, etc. that see the aftermath of human destruction every day at work. Sometimes this is called burnout. Yeah, right.In a nutshell, people can have all kinds of emotional and though disturbances, even nightmares when their minds can’t process it during the day completely, after any type of disturbing thing! Do we really want to leave it to official organizations to dictates to mankind what qualifies as disturbing? People are far too complicated to use a rigid checklist of symptoms to qualify for help.
Why is PTSD labeled as a disorder?
Now, the “disorder” word in PTSD I actually agree with. Disorder means that the daily functions of life aren’t working properly, that after a reasonable amount of time (3 months, 3 years?) the survivor isn’t able to return to some level of basic functioning. Examples include the inability to keep a job, leave the house, have a semblance of the personality they had before, etc. If you don’t think that happens, you’ve simply never seen in it. Now, I admit that I’m ignorant about MANY things in this world–and I’m glad to be! Ignorance simply means “lack of knowledge”, so don’t get personally offended by what I’m about to say next…Many argue about this point and say things like “the young generation is weaker” or “the greatest generation never complained about postraumatic stress”. “Isn’t ‘PTSD” just a normal reaction to an abnormal event?” All of this comes from a place of complete ignorance. Let me explain.
The young generation is not weaker
The diagnosis of PTSD wasn’t created until 1980, but there have been reports of posttraumatic stress, reactions, psychosis, blindness, and shock dating back throughout all of human history. Anthony J. Marsella and colleagues, in their unique book Ethnocultural Aspects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, make the clear and convincing case that not only has what we now call PTSD been around forever, but it’s not unique to western culture. There are stable rates of PTSD in practically all societies around the globe.
But that’s not what convinced me.
I’ve taken many of my best lessons from those that lead this world from the front-the military. While the baby boomers were arguably among the greatest generation (which I think does an incredible disservice to the rest of mankind), they still suffered 50% mental health casualties in the Pacific island of Peleliu–this is more than the number of casualties to death! I cite The Pacific by Hugh Ambrose. What’s missing in the incredible HBO miniseries, The Pacific, is the incredible numbers of people running across the airport field that were frozen, panicked, and completely dissociated. In that entire series, there are usually only 2 or so Marines that they show as mental health casualties. To be there…it must have been overwhelming to see what was happening to so many people.World War II isn’t our only example though. An equally terrifying battle in the Korean War resulted in the same 50% mental health casualty rate, though we didn’t win there–not even close. I cite The Forgotten War, by Clay Blair, Jr.