Dart Blog

May 9 2012 1:18 PM

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Traumatic Stress: Injury or Disorder?

That's the question psychiatrists thrashed out at this week's American Psychiatric Association annual meeting. As Greg Jaffe reports in the Washington Post, "military officers and psychiatrists are embroiled in a heated debate over whether to change the name of a condition as old as combat."

At issue is whether labeling the signature psychological wound of war and other horrific violence an injury would encourage soldiers, veterans and others to seek help. “No 19-year-old kid wants to be told he’s got a disorder,” retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli told the Post.

The issue divides top U.S. trauma experts. Those who argue for the change point out that PTSD is the only psychiatric condition directly caused by exposure an outside event - and that advancing brain science is identifying characteristic markers of injury. Those who oppose changing diagnostic language say that "injury" does not capture the enduring and complex psychological changes associated with PTSD.

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