Could Changing the Name of PTSD Lessen the Stigma

What’s in a name? The U.S. Army’s General Peter Chiarelli believes that a name carries a lot of weight. He believes that people form opinions quickly when they hear the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that these negative opinions are preventing soldiers from seeking the treatment they need.

PTSD can be treated, but the word "disorder" conjures up thoughts of a permanent lifetime illness-something that cannot be fixed or overcome. This stigma is why General Chiarelli suggests changing the name Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to something like Post Traumatic Stress Injury.

Labeling something an "injury" implies that an individual can heal, whereas labeling something a "disorder" sounds as though damage is permanent. A name change may reduce stigma, but some doctors and professionals believe that a name change is not the right way to educate others about PTSD.

Avoiding the Stigma by Avoiding Treatment

Military members aren’t the only individuals to suffer from PTSD. Those who have been in horrible accidents, witnessed severe violence, or who have been raped can also develop PTSD. They all may suffer from traumatic flashbacks, insomnia, a strong feeling of caution or avoidance of certain places, and guarded emotions.

General Chiarelli stresses that the term "disorder" is keeping sufferers from admitting that they have a problem and, therefore, they do not seek treatment. Those with PTSD fear being viewed as weak or damaged and even fear losing their job.

How A Name Change Can Change Attitude

This year the American Psychiatric Association is updating their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is the first time it will have been changed since 2000. Supporters of the name change believe that this is the perfect time to strike and destroy a stigmatizing label.

With the change to the word "injury" from the word "disorder", supporters believe that employers, friends, and associates will begin to better understand that those who are affected by a traumatic experience can be treated, healed, work competently at their job, and have a happy family life.

Disagreements With the Name Change

Those who disagree with the name change say that it could cause problems with health insurers and claims for disability if they called it PTS. The name must be labeled as a disorder, disease, or injury in order to be covered. Some say that some of the symptoms of PTSD, like flashbacks, nightmares and mood swings, are not really injuries.

Others opposed to the name change think that a better way to fight the stigma is to better educate people about PTSD. Knowledge of what to expect from people with PTSD will help eliminate fears and stereotypes.

Staying Honest, While Reducing Stigma

PTSD may be the only mental illness that is caused by an external force, but some professionals stress that if an individual’s symptoms are keeping them from having healthy and enjoyable relationships and preventing them from being who they desire to be, that maybe "disorder" is an appropriate term.

Whether or not the name is changed, all agree that those who suffer from PTSD should seek treatment and have the opportunity to heal their minds, bodies, and the relationships with those they love.

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