Let’s face it, PTSD is a label. Having a diagnosis can be very helpful as it allows clients to access appropriate resources and supports. However, it doesn’t accurately reflect the experience of recovering from trauma.
When healthy people are repeatedly exposed to traumatic and dangerous situations, it’s normal that there’s a residual effect. Like an athlete that runs too many marathons without enough recovery time, injuries are sustained that can be lingering or career-threatening.
The word “disorder” does a disservice to the injuries suffered by those who put themselves in harm’s way in the course of their work. People with PTSD are not disordered, they are injured. Their wounds originate from repeated or severe exposure to trauma. There’s nothing disordered about that, it’s a natural and predictable reaction to unnatural events or situations.
Just because it’s invisible, doesn’t mean it’s not real. We’re going to increasingly be using the term PTSI in our communications. These injuries are significant, severe, and potentially life threatening if not tended to in a thoughtful, compassionate manner. As with any injury, there’s a continuum of severity, ranging from mildly disruptive to debilitating. Not everyone who has these injuries is the same. The mechanism of injury, presentation of symptoms, and severity of harm may vary from person to person. Nonetheless, everyone has an equal right to access treatment and care in a timely manner.
Disorders are something we stick in the corner and don’t quite know what to do with. Injuries are something we heal. So we get it, without the label, it’s impossible to access appropriate care. But between you and me, we’ll be calling it an injury.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong