• Why Post-Traumatic Stress Isn’t a Disorder

    Photo Credit: residentialadvisor.net

    Photo Credit: residentialadvisor.net

    Recently, retired Army General Peter Chiarelli endorsed the idea that post-traumatic stress disorder should be renamed post-traumatic stress injury.

    According to a December 2012 article in TimeGeneral Chiarelli believes the term injury more accurately represents what does and does not happen in the traumatized brain.

    His recommendation has sparked controversy, with some experts claiming that the intent behind the move is to de-stigmatize the term “PTSD” as a disorder and to legitimize behaviors associated with the condition.

    The truth is that a diagnosis of PTSD does bring a negative stigma.

    Former President George W. Bush stated, “Employers or potential employers do not want to take a chance on someone who has the PTSD label…PTSD is an injury, not a disability.” Interestingly, in 2001, the Canadian Armed Forces began addressing PTSD as “Operational Stress Injury” and began a program to help their vets heal from their injuries in a peer-to-peer setting.

    Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, author of Reframing PTSD as Traumatic Griefshares the view that trauma produces injuries, not mental disorders. Dr. Wolfelt bases his approach on the premise that “every psychological struggle is ultimately a matter of spirituality.” In trauma, we are challenged to discover meaning, hope, and purpose in life.

    According to Dr. Wolfelt, mental disorder implies a need for recovery or a return to “normal.” The term “normal” indicates a state of balance and homeostasis. However, trauma and significant loss forever change us. Trauma and loss are inevitable factors of life. A mental disorder implies the need for a fix, a solution, a cure. An injury connotes healing

    Grief and trauma are not illnesses to be “cured” but responses to injury that affect us physically, cognitively, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

    Acccording to Dr. Wolfelt, an illness or disorder is an intrinsic, internal going-awry. It is a malfunction. However, injury is the result of an external blow to a system. It is the result or effect of an outside action. Trauma, and its ensuing grief and symptoms, are the responses caused by loss.

    Some people may see the issue of renaming PTSD as PTSI as an effort to de-stigmatize the term. However, I agree with Dr. Wolfelt. Trauma and grief are related to what we think and feel when who we are and what we value is is harmed. Trauma treatment should encompass the body, mind, soul, and spirit, acknowledging the losses we have experienced and finding new significance in life as we move forward.

    • Have you experienced the stigma associated with PTSD?
    • How have you dealt with it?
    • What has helped you to move forward?

    We’d appreciate hearing from you.


6 Responsesso far.

  1. Kathleen says:

    Nice to see this perspective. Motivates one to heal. Reiki energy work is amazing at helping aid the healing process.

  2. Heather Walker says:

    I first heard about the suggestion of PTSI while reading a text by Peter Levine and I could identify with it because injury gives me hope that I can heal from what has happened as opposed to being labelled “disordered” for the rest of my life. I have found in my own recovery that when I have a safe place and safe people whom I can trust I can begin to feel safe enough to talk about the things that have happened in my life.

    • admin says:

      You bring up a very important point, Heather. The term “injury” offers hope for recovery. We are all looking for a safe place where we can be nurtured and understood–a place that is safe enough to share the pain. “Disordered” conveys a condition, rather than an outward act brought upon us. Thank you for the insight.

  3. Deb Fuller says:

    I am so tired of people trying to fix me. Begging me to be who I used to be. This term even makes me feel less guilt. I’m never good enough.

    • admin says:

      I believe that people are uncomfortable with our pain. They don’t understand that trauma changes us and we will never be who we were “before.” We are negotiating our way to new purpose and meaning as we grieve what we have lost. We have been injured. May you find freedom from false guilt placed on you by others, Deb. Not good enough? Don’t believe the lie.

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