According to a December 2012 article in Time, General Chiarelli believes the term injury more accurately represents what does and does not happen in the traumatized brain.
His recommendation has sparked controversy, with some experts claiming that the intent behind the move is to de-stigmatize the term “PTSD” as a disorder and to legitimize behaviors associated with the condition.
Former President George W. Bush stated, “Employers or potential employers do not want to take a chance on someone who has the PTSD label…PTSD is an injury, not a disability.” Interestingly, in 2001, the Canadian Armed Forces began addressing PTSD as “Operational Stress Injury” and began a program to help their vets heal from their injuries in a peer-to-peer setting.
Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, author of Reframing PTSD as Traumatic Grief, shares the view that trauma produces injuries, not mental disorders. Dr. Wolfelt bases his approach on the premise that “every psychological struggle is ultimately a matter of spirituality.” In trauma, we are challenged to discover meaning, hope, and purpose in life.
According to Dr. Wolfelt, mental disorder implies a need for recovery or a return to “normal.” The term “normal” indicates a state of balance and homeostasis. However, trauma and significant loss forever change us. Trauma and loss are inevitable factors of life. A mental disorder implies the need for a fix, a solution, a cure. An injury connotes healing
Acccording to Dr. Wolfelt, an illness or disorder is an intrinsic, internal going-awry. It is a malfunction. However, injury is the result of an external blow to a system. It is the result or effect of an outside action. Trauma, and its ensuing grief and symptoms, are the responses caused by loss.
Some people may see the issue of renaming PTSD as PTSI as an effort to de-stigmatize the term. However, I agree with Dr. Wolfelt. Trauma and grief are related to what we think and feel when who we are and what we value is is harmed. Trauma treatment should encompass the body, mind, soul, and spirit, acknowledging the losses we have experienced and finding new significance in life as we move forward.
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