"PTS" or "PTSD" -- Quality Care is the Bottom Line

At the 2011 Military Blogger's Conference a very concerned person came up to the mic during a question and answer session with GI Film Festival film makers and expressed that, in an effort to remove the stigma associated with PTSD, it should no longer be called  "PTSD," but instead be called "PTS" -- Post Traumatic Stress. No "Disorder."

Now don't get me wrong -- I want to remove the stigma just as much as the next person. But I’m really curious what a name change is actually going to do. You are still going to run into people who don’t know how to treat it no matter what it is called. There will still be people embarrassed to have it.

Bottom line: mental health is a tough issue, always has been, always will be.

Here we are again exactly a year later and the dialogue is still open, only now there are more ideas as to what it should be called. One of those new names is "Post Traumatic Stress Injury." Maybe that will work, maybe it won’t ... but the medical definition of an injury doesn’t fit.

What PTSD (or PTS ... or PTSI ...) is called has changed over and over throughout the years. Soldier’s Heart, Shell Shock, War Neurosis, Combat Fatigue ... and although we have made some progress, the stigma is still there. I'm not sure dropping a letter is what is going to do it.

In my opinion we have progressed in reducing the stigma because more and more people are becoming aware of what is going on with our servicemembers upon return from war, and more and more servicemembers are talking about their experiences -- all this without a name change.

There are many reasons people have come up with as to why the "D" should be dropped. It's like the "D" is something to be ashamed of. PTSD is never something to be ashamed of -- and taking the "D" away will not change that.

It DOES NOT matter what it is called it IS the same thing.

Symptoms of PTSD: Re-experiencing the traumatic event

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing
  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)
Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled
So if we are going to drop the "D," can we just take away the symptoms as well? No?

The reasons folks have for changing the name run the gamut. I have seen everything from "it will help servicemembers get jobs," to "it shouldn't be a disorder because it is normal."

Now those of us who have been through medical retirements and VA ratings know that if something is "normal" it doesn't get acknowledged and if it is a symptom it does not get rated.

So if the name changed and it was no longer a "disorder,"  how many service members would then not get rated?

I sit here, conflicted in even writing this piece because I feel like arguing it is a waste of time, that we should be putting our efforts into ensuring that these brave men and women are getting the quality care that they need and deserve.

Has anyone out there actually been diagnosed using the "PTS" term yet? What are your thoughts?

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