Tuesday, July 07, 2009

PTSD is not caused by society

War has been part of man's culture since he picked up the first rock and threw it at his neighbor. But PTSD has been there longer than that. Watching your family get eaten alive by a saber-toothed tiger would cause it. Seeing the stragglers in your column of family get overtaken by molten lava would cause it.

And I'll bet he had nightmares about it, too.

Do you think there was no "shell shock", or "Battle Fatigue" or PTSD after the Civil War? After the Revolution? Do you think Civilians did not experience it during the French and Indian Wars, or the Indians experience it after what we did to them during our westward expansion? Do you think Napoleon's troops did not experience it after their march home from Moscow -- those that survived?

Do you think that little boy down in Florida doesn't grow up with PTSD after seeing an alligator eat his little sister?

Do you think the young mother who lost her baby in a tornado as it was ripped from her arms doesn't have PTSD?

Do you think the four survivors of a train wreck that killed 150 people don't have PTSD?

The only influence war has on PTSD is the statistically increased occurrences in war that provide the stressors that trigger it.

Culturally, it is our prejudice against persons with any form of mental condition, be it a disease, or a birth defect. In fact, no mental illness, or disease, no abnormalities are caused by the individual in whom the illness or abnormality exists, yet we shun and mistreat, bully and mock, belittle and ostracize those who are retarded, mentally ill, insane, or scarred from a stroke, a brain injury, a long bout with a high fever, or a tumor. Our ignorance is based on old societal fears and the fact that in general we know so little about the brain and the mind and what makes it work, though we are a lot farther down the road than when I was taking psychology courses forty years ago.

[For what it is worth, and this is NOT scientific, I suspect that PTSD is the result when the mind is so overwhelmed with horror that the normal mechanism of coping, forgetfulness, is unable to kick in. I think there are a few in whom PTSD is controllable...perhaps recurrences only happening once or twice a year...you can function like that...but of the rest, I believe that most who have it hide it, either trying to "man up", or ashamed of the perceived weakness, when it is, indeed, not a weakness, but an illness. But there is a stigma attached to any form of "mental condition" because of which most who have PTSD will not come forward about their own problems.]

Mostly, it is ignorance that allows people to treat persons with brain disorders the way we do. How we treat PTSD victims comes from the same root of ignorance in the way we treat Schizophrenics when we call them "Schiz", or say, "He went all schizoid on me!", and the same root as when we refer to the Mentally Retarded as "Tards" or "Morons", or confuse a person who is recovering from a stroke with a drunk, or a retarded person. Ignorance.

War does not cause PTSD, it provides the stressors that do, and they are different for each and every individual affected. Our culture does not cause PTSD. It is not something inflicted by our society.

I will repeat, The only influence war has on PTSD is the statistically increased occurrences in war that provide the stressors that trigger it.


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