Dropping The ‘Disorder’ From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a very real threat to service members well before Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) began in the early 2000’s. While the label PTSD only first appeared in 1980, signs of the invisible wounds of war have been present in service members dating back to the Civil War. However, as the diagnosis of PTSD became more common, so did a stigma that was attached to the diagnosis among service members. Part of that stigma surrounds the lack of a visible wound or scar. Another part has to do with what that diagnosis may mean for a service member and their ability to continue to carry out their duties.

The military’s decision to officially shorten the term to post-traumatic stress may have partially stemmed from a question raised in 2008. Lieutenant General Eric Schoomaker, Army Surgeon General at that time, said “This is a normal reaction to a very serious set of events…” In response, Time Magazine’s Battleland asked him, “why is it called a disorder if it’s normal?” which clearly impacted the General.

Beginning in 2011, military leaders began addressing post-traumatic stress without the word ‘Disorder’ attached. In 2012 and beyond, that trend continued. Another factor leading to this change was service members refusing to seek help. “No 19-year-old kid wants to be told he’s got a disorder,” said General Peter Chiarelli, who led the Army’s effort to reduce military suicide rates.

Even those with visible wounds struggled with acknowledging their invisible symptoms. As Sgt. Dewitt Osborne (Ret.) US Army, and Drew Barnett (Ret.), US Navy SEALs said in 2017, having visible wounds made having invisible wounds easier. However, that didn’t make it easier to deal with. Barnett refused to believe he was suffering and even went as far as to say “we don’t want to, one, look weak, or we don’t want to be someone who is not dependable.” Capt. Kevin Rosenblum (Ret.), U.S. Army received a diagnosis for post-traumatic stress after a physical injury. His reaction was to minimize it as the “toll of service in war.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a staggering 11-20 out of 100 (or 11-20%) of service members who have served in OEF or OIF suffer from post-traumatic stress in a given year. Those numbers are an increase from 12 out of 100 who served in the Gulf War and 15 of every 100 who served in Vietnam.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is addressing this critical need to help heal our heroes from these invisible wounds of war. We’re building Intrepid Spirit Centers: specially designed facilities on military bases around the country treating post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. Over 90% of those treated at Intrepid Spirit Centers return to active duty or regular civilian life. Seven centers are already completed and in operation and the eighth center is currently under construction; two additional centers are planned. Help us heal our heroes with a donation today.

Posted on June 11 2018 in Blog

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