I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with the acronym PTSD. It stands for 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder', and is commonly bandied about concerning combat veterans, those in high-risk, high-stress jobs like law enforcement, emergency medical services and firefighting, and the like.
It's also perhaps one of the most misunderstood and fraudulently applied diagnoses in the USA. Chris Hernandez has just written an excellent analysis of the situation. Here's an excerpt.
It’s fair to say most of us combat veterans have suspicions about PTSD claims. We’ve been frustrated by stories of horrible, disabling PTSD from people we know were never in combat. We’ve heard of troops coming home from deployments to peaceful countries, never hearing a shot fired, but immediately claiming PTSD. We know that in the War on Terror only a small percentage of troops actually faced an enemy, and many of those relished the experience. We have the nagging feeling most PTSD claims are more about free money than healing and recovery. Some of us have become so skeptical, we automatically throw a mental BS flag when we hear someone talk about having PTSD.
. . .
If our suspicions were confirmed, that would be pretty depressing. Know what would be even more depressing? Being told by two VA psychologists that the system is even more corrupt and full of liars, scammers and thieves than we thought.
There's more at the link. It's well worth reading.
I understand PTSD at first hand. After eighteen years of military and civilian involvement in South Africa's internal struggle to get rid of apartheid, I was pretty much burned out. I just wasn't coping. However, I knew darned well what the problem was, and I knew that it could be dealt with. I took the first step by getting away from the situation that had caused my burnout - I immigrated to the USA. I'll always be grateful to this country for giving me a fresh beginning. Next, I looked for a counselor who had himself been in combat - intensive combat - and who could thus be expected to understand what it involved, how it affected those involved, and how to overcome those stresses. After a little searching, I found one.
In less than six months of regular sessions, we dealt with the major problems. He was able to show me new perspectives, new ways to handle the bad memories, and how to look forward to my new life rather than look back upon the old one. I continued to see him on a less regular basis for a couple more years, more for companionship than anything else. We got to the point where each of us would freely discuss our memories. I suspect it was more like joint therapy for both of us rather than a traditional therapist-patient relationship. When he finally said that any more visits would be a waste of my money, we visited as friends, after hours. He's no longer with us, but I remember him with respect and affection.
The point is, it didn't take all that long to deal with the nasty memories. Once I had an opportunity to talk them out with someone who understood them - and understood them innately, from personal experience, not just out of a textbook - they largely went away. Oh, sure, I still have the occasional nightmare about the past. That's inevitable, and part of being human. However, they no longer hang over me. They don't control me. I control them. When I wake up from one, I'm able to remind myself immediately, "It's OK. That's past and gone and done with. It's not real. It can't hurt me any longer." Within a few moments, I've regained my balance.
I can't honestly believe that PTSD is something that can or should hang over one for years, even decades. If it does, I suspect one or more of three things is involved.
- The victim hasn't been willing to look inside himself and deal with it. Instead, he flinches away from it. It's like he's pulling the scab off a wound, never giving it time to heal. He's perpetuating the problem by not dealing with it.
- He's under treatment by counselors and therapists who don't understand the problem - or who do understand it, but prefer to keep him dependent on them, because his repeated visits mean that they have job security and a guaranteed income, all at his expense.
- He's a fraud, milking the problem for psychological and/or emotional and/or financial benefits, making it out to be much worse than it is.
I think that (1) above is relatively rare. On the other hand, I suspect both (2) and (3) are far more common than most PTSD 'victims' and those treating them would care to admit. Chris Hernandez, who also understands the situation from personal experience, appears to agree.
Let me close by pointing out a very current example of how to deal with PTSD. During the past couple of years the Yazidi people of Iraq have been savagely attacked by ISIL, which has kidnapped many of their women into sex slavery. Thousands have been 'sold' to its fighters or others, raped repeatedly, even murdered. If anyone in the world has the right to claim PTSD, they do . . . but the survivors, when they escape, aren't doing that. Instead, they're getting over their PTSD in the best possible way, by arming and training themselves to deal with those who enslaved and raped and degraded them. There's now an entire battalion of former Yazidi sex slaves in the Kurdish armed forces. They'll take out their stresses by killing those who caused them. Well done, those ladies! I've already donated something to their support; and frankly, if it were possible (and legal) to donate weapons and ammunition to them, I'd do that, too.