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To Improve Awareness, We Must Call PTSD What It Is: A Disorder
June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month. Well, at least according to the National Center for PTSD. According to lawmakers, however, June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Month. And while dropping the letter “D” may seem trivial, doing so could have far-reaching implications, and not the positive ones that Congress has in mind.
One year ago this month, two U.S. senators put forth a bill to remove the “D” in PTSD in declaring June’s awareness campaign. The move marked the fourth year in a row that the senators had proposed the bill and that the Senate had unanimously passed it. The logic behind the change, according to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, is that the word “disorder” carries a stigma that may dissuade those with symptoms from seeking treatment. Many organizations, treatment centers, public forums, and individual advocates have followed suit, and have begun referring to the condition as PTS instead of PTSD.
While their cause is noble, it is also flawed. PTS is different from PTSD, and while they may share similar symptoms, they should not be confused.
This is about more than just semantics and good intentions – it’s a medical issue.
PTS describes the fight-or-flight response people experience immediately following a traumatic event. The symptoms are temporary and include sleeplessness, increased anxiety, and hypersensitivity, among other things. While the effects of PTS can interfere with daily life, they subside over time and can be remedied with short-term or even no professional therapeutic treatment.
While people suffering from PTSD often experience many of the symptoms associated with PTS, the disorder is not a temporary affliction. It is also more likely to include triggers or delayed reactions such as flashbacks.
PTSD is a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and has both longer-lasting symptoms and more involved treatment options than PTS. A PTSD diagnosis usually means long-term treatment with a trained mental health professional. In essence, referring to PTSD as simply PTS is like treating a torn rotator cuff as a sprain and then wondering why a bit of ice and a few weeks rest aren’t helping.
Heitkamp is right: no 19-year-old wants to be diagnosed with a “disorder.” No 37-year-old does, either. But dropping the word from the name in an effort to increase awareness and encourage treatment could actually have the opposite effect.
Why should we focus on making “disorder” a dirty word, when the term simply refers to the condition’s impact on someone’s health over a period of time? This is, of course, a common problem in the world of mental health and treatment: the framing becomes more about the word “disorder” than the condition itself. We don’t need to change what the public calls it, we need to change the perception around it. Isn’t that what awareness campaigns are all about, anyway?
Eliminating “disorder” from awareness campaigns is misleading, and reduces symptoms to those of a temporary malady rather than of a long-term, well-defined condition. Depression and suicide, anger management, extended and uncontrolled hypervigilance, and tension are not effects of Post-Traumatic Stress, they are the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
To encourage those with symptoms of PTSD to seek treatment, we must help them understand that for all the stigma surrounding disorders, being diagnosed with one is not a death sentence. They can be managed and treated. Any treatment is unlikely to be lifelong, and seeing a mental health professional has been shown to improve clients’ quality of life, regardless of their diagnosis.
When the disorder is effectively managed, it really ceases to be a disorder at all. Perhaps if more people understood this, there may not be such an aversion towards the word or the treatment.
So instead of discussing name changes, our elected officials should focus their efforts on raising awareness and relieving the stigma associated with this disorder. Doing so could bring breakthroughs in increasing research, treatment, and management options for those suffering from PTSD. In using the word “disorder” we are acknowledging that PTSD is a clinical condition, and one that carries the hope of recovery and leading a normal life.
So let’s call PTSD what it is: a disorder. Only then will the awareness campaign reduce the stigma surrounding the condition and truly encourage people to seek help.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.
This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.
Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".
In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"
It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.
But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.
A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.