Fort Hood and the Stigma with PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after extreme emotional trauma involving threat of harm or death.
With the recent shootings at Fort Hood, PTSD is coming to the forefront of public awareness as people wonder what is being done to prevent further tragedy.
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 6 of every 10 men and 5 of every 10 women experience at least one trauma and nearly 7-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
The Fort Hood shooter, Ivan Lopez, has not been confirmed as having PTSD. He was being tested for the disorder. However, with any mental health diagnosis, stigmas exist that can limit and delay services for survivors.
Often survivors are labeled crazy, dangerous or prone to violent outbursts because of their disorder, something medical professionals say is not true. Symptoms of PTSD are often more internalized like depression.
“Some veterans explain it to me this way: ‘The last thing you want is to go out and lash out,” said Ingrid Herrera-Yee, a clinical psychologist who treats veterans as quoted in a NBC article.
“Just like any victims of a trauma –- rape or domestic violence -– they can become fearful of their surroundings, but they’re not going to react angrily toward their surroundings. For them, it’s all about avoidance,” Herrera-Yee said.
Dealing with PTSD can lead survivors to feel like an outcast or detached from their surroundings. According to the National Center for PTSD, recovery is an ongoing, gradual process. It doesn't happen through suddenly being "cured" and it doesn't mean that survivors will forget what happened.
With any disaster, people search for meaning behind senseless violence. However, psychologists warn that rushing to stigmatize a disorder or illness can have negative consequences.
“The Fort Hood headlines everywhere today are using the words 'PTSD' and 'troubled.' I completely understand that, as human beings, we all search to find an answer around something this tragic," Herrera-Yee said.
"But focusing on PTSD could affect service members who would otherwise seek help for these symptoms in the future -– and those who are carrying the diagnosis today."
For survivors it seems, like most things, diagnosis is not black and white.
If you or a loved one has gone through trauma or are dealing with PTSD, the National Center offers help.
- Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
- Contact the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 (text 838255) or Confidential Veterans Chat with a counselor
PTSD Care for Veterans, Military, and Families
- See Help for Veterans with PTSD to learn how to enroll for VA health care and get an assessment.
- All VA Medical Centers provide PTSD care, as well as many VA clinics.
- Some VA's have programs specializing in PTSD treatment. Use the VA PTSD Program Locator to find a PTSD program.