Should The D Be Taken Out Of PTSD?
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02-26-14 Category: Mental Health

What’s in a name? Just as Juliet mused on whether a rose (or her love Romeo) would be any different were it called a different name, doctors and now former President George W. Bush have started wondering if PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) would be seen in a different light if it were called something else.

Their proposed solution is to remove the word disorder, and possibly replace it with injury. In a speech at a summit at the George W. Bush Institute that discussed veteran affairs, especially the reintegration of veterans, former President Bush advocated removing the term disorder from PTSD.

Reintegrating Returning Veterans

During the summit, former President Bush discussed a study being undertaken by his institute and Syracuse University on returning veterans, with the goal of discovering the best way to reintegrate them into the civilian workforce. PTSD is often part of discussions about the reintegration of veterans because they have the highest risk of any group for developing the disorder. This also makes the disorder overwhelmingly associated with veterans, which leads to misunderstandings and possible problems.

Although PTSD is associated with veterans, anyone can have PTSD after experiencing any type of trauma, including a natural disaster, a violent crime, rape, child abuse, or a car accident. About 7-8 percent of the general population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. However, around 30 percent of Vietnam veterans, 11-20 percent of those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and 10 percent of those who served in the Gulf War have PTSD, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). The VA works hard to ensure that veterans receive proper treatment, and benefits when applicable, for PTSD, and has clinics around the country devoted solely to PTSD treatment.

What Are PTSD Symptoms?

There are three categories for PTSD symptoms: reliving (also known as re-experiencing), avoidance, and hyperarousal. Each category has a list of symptoms, which can include flashbacks or nightmares, physical symptoms of fear (including a beating heart, nausea, or shortness of breath) for no apparent reason, intense emotions (such as fear, anxiety, or anger) as a reaction to triggers, chronic feelings of irritation or moodiness, and difficulty sleeping (especially due to vivid nightmares).

For a diagnosis of PTSD, a person must experience at least one re-experiencing symptom, three avoidance symptoms, and two hyperarousal symptoms for at least one month. These symptoms disrupt relationships, school or work, and daily life.

The Stigma Attached To PTSD

Former President Bush and others who think similarly feel that the word disorder needs to be removed from PTSD in order to remove the stigma surrounding the condition. They feel that potential employers might be hesitant to hire veterans with PTSD (despite state and federal employment laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA that prohibit that kind of discrimination).

More importantly, they feel that veterans themselves feel disheartened when diagnosed with PTSD, fearing that it is untreatable. As Bush stated, “We’re getting rid of the D. PTS is an injury; it’s not a disorder.  The problem is when you call it a disorder, [veterans] don’t think they can be treated.”

Some Apprehension From The Medical Community

Although some doctors have already been pushing for the term disorder to be removed from PTSD, other medical professionals are apprehensive about doing so. The word disorder implies not that it is incurable, but that it is a chronic condition requiring treatment. Most people experience some sort of stress after a traumatic event, which is known as acute stress disorder (ASD). Most individuals get over their symptoms within a few weeks.

For others, the response lingers for months or even years, making it a chronic condition requiring more in-depth treatment, and that is when a person is typically diagnosed with PTSD. In order to accurately diagnose a person so that he or she receives the proper treatment, a way is needed to differentiate the different levels of the person’s reaction to a traumatic event. Regardless of the name, people who experience the symptoms of PTSD need to seek help and get treatment. Treatment for PTSD often includes psychotherapy and medication, although there are some alternative complementary therapeutic treatments that can help a person with PTSD.

What Therapy Is Most Effective For PTSD?

The most beneficial form of therapy for a person with PTSD is cognitive behavioral therapy, including exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and stress inoculation training. These therapies help a person come to terms with the memories and feelings about the traumatic event to reduce the symptoms.

Although there is not medication to treat PTSD specifically, some doctors will prescribe medication, such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines, to soothe some of the symptoms. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and acupuncture have all been shown to help PTSD. Engaging socially and feeling a part of a team also provides support and other benefits to those suffering from the condition. Although PTSD can be debilitating, it is a treatable disorder.

Awareness And Education

Many of the negative stigmas surrounding PTSD come from an age where not much was known about the disorder. Instead of trying to get rid of the stigma by changing the name, awareness and education can help people better understand PTSD and no longer fear it, whether it is a person with the disorder who fears a life-long battle with symptoms, or an employer hesitant to hire a person with PTSD.

Through public education about the facts surrounding the disorder, many of the myths and misunderstandings will disappear, making it even easier for those suffering from the condition to seek and receive help instead of feeling hopeless or ashamed. At the end of the day, the name given to a condition does not really matter, as long as there are defined criteria for an accurate diagnose and treatment, and support and benefits for those who need them.

Sovereign Health Group provides state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatment for PTSD, along with other mental health disorders, eating disorders, addiction, and co-occurring disorders. We are accredited by the Joint Commission and dually licensed to treat substance abuse and mental health disorders. To learn more about our mental health treatment programs visit this page or call us at 866-264-9778.

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