Can we please stop calling Post-Trauma Stress a disorder? (OPINION)

by paulgebel

I recently heard a hero of mine speak. His name is Chris Johnson, and he works for a local agency doing the Lord’s work called CDS Monarch’s Warrior Salute. He introduced a renewed effort of the organization and also kicked off the campaign driving toward a first-of-kind Serve. Honor. Support. Symposium, which – if you live anywhere close to Rochester – I suggest you attend. But in the course of his speech, Chris said something profound. I don’t know if he is the first to say it. I don’t even know if the reasoning is clinically sound. But it certainly struck me as a new concept. Simple, but striking in its clarity.

Chris said, and I paraphrase, that we should stop categorizing the post-combat human brain processes as a disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become arguably the most talked about, studied and treated effect of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. What the human mind does to repair, reframe and sort through everything it has had to deal with while in a combat setting is not a disorder. In fact, it is the brain attempting to make order of the chaos through which it just passed, and in many cases there is not enough mental, emotional or spiritual bandwidth available to one person to get through it alone. As human beings, we are not designed to function alone.

There are certainly many ugly sides to this re-ordering process. Morally upstanding soldiers come back and begin drinking beyond their capacity. Formerly tender husbands come back and alienate or abuse their spouses. Drugs. Depression… Suicide. Post Trauma Stress is an incredibly powerful force, and regardless of a servicemember’s rank or job speciality, no one comes back from war unchanged. However, observing the mess of the the aftermath and calling it a “disorder” does our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines a disservice.

So let’s focus on our local providers who help these heroes, be they non-profit, federal, state or local. Let’s recognize that there is real help that is needed to sort through the chaos. But the function of the brain, and really all of life, is an exercise in preparing for and responding to stressors. Some are good. Some not so good. But Post-Trauma Stress is just stress. By realizing that we can address it as such, we can see through the intensity of the depression or the volatility of mood, not as disorder, but as a fundamental re-ordering which we have the tools, clinical history and means to help heal.

If you’ve been touched by Post-Trauma Stress, or know someone who has, maybe you would be inclined to volunteer to help. Two agencies in the Rochester, NY area that are doing just this (and can use your time and talent) are:

CDS Monarch Warrior Salute

Veterans Outreach Center