Christian Living · encouragement

The Number One Myth Surrounding PTSD

This is the second post in the series Invisible Illnesses. To read the first post, click here.

xgxzqrpk0ue-malik-earnest

Humans are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are complex beings, an intricate tapestry of mind, body, and soul. Advances in research continually enhance our understanding of the mind-body connection, yet scientists and laymen alike continue to minimize the power of this perplexing organ.

As Christians, we believe in the unseen. We have confidence in the power of God to heal. We know the war of the mind rages daily. The bitter irony, then, is how we treat those with “unseen” mental injuries as though they are weak-minded sinners:

“If you just had more faith, you could be healed.”

“You need to pray more. That will fix your depression.”

“That guy simply needs to stop making excuses for his PTSD.”

As if it’s so simple…

If I were to say, “That cancer patient is downright lazy. He needs to get on his knees, start praying and have more faith in God’s power to heal,” what would happen? Death threats. Accusations of insanity. Disdain. Derision.

Why?

God, in His infinite wisdom, does not always give us healing. It might be our time to go home and be with the Lord. It could be our “thorn in the flesh” training us to patiently endure. Yes, faith can move mountains yes, prayer is powerful; but God’s will is the final word. Sometimes the answer is “no,” or “not yet.”

The world we live in is plagued by diseases of all kinds. We conquer one outbreak only to be assaulted by another. Tuberculosis used to be the great killer, now it’s cancer. People feared Polio, now it’s autism. We strive endlessly to circumvent disease, but the world has been the realm of hardship since the first sin.

Mental illnesses are invisible diseases, often created by physical stimuli, but we (particularly Christians) treat them as though they are self-inflicted wounds, controlled by our will alone. We completely ignore the physiochemical side of the issue.

It is far too complex be treated so lightly.

The #1 Myth of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

During the tumultuous election, I numbed to the cringe-worthy statements from the-candidates-whom-nobody-wanted. Then, out of the blue, Mr. Trump said something in total ignorance—and I was no longer numb:

“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can’t handle it. They see horror stories, they see events you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it …”

Donald Trump, October 3, 2016 (emphasis mine)

Open mouth, insert foot.

Mr. Trump merely stated what most people already believe—PTSD only happens to the weak.

That would be Myth #1.

PTSD results from traumatic stress, hence the name. Furthermore, nobody has been able to crack the code of the human brain to determine why one person gets one set of symptoms and another person does not. One thing the experts all agree on is this: PTSD is NOT the result of weakness.

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) states: “PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will develop PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control.”

The VA estimates that eleven to twenty percent of veterans from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD. They also estimated the number of Vietnam Veterans with PTSD is only slightly higher—about fifteen percent. I’m a little skeptical of their numbers because most people—men in particular—are reluctant to admit there is a problem due to the social stigma surrounding PTSD. Furthermore, the needs of veterans returning home from Vietnam were ignored (read: treated like garbage) and so it is likely that number is also inaccurate.

What I am about to state in this paragraph is purely my opinion, based on my eye-witness observation and reading: PTSD—particularly when manifested in military veterans, law enforcement, and first responders—is a sign of deep courage, conscience, and compassion. We were designed to desire justice and mercy simultaneously. It is not in our nature to find joy in death and destruction. If one sees rampant devastation and remains unmoved, something is seriously wrong.

We watch movies and TV shows of people going through trauma. After each life-threatening situation, they move on with life as though unfazed. Consciously or subconsciously, we consider these characters tough. In real life, we would think they were sick and twisted at best. One cannot be confronted with such high, unremitting levels of violence and remain unaffected, unless there is some underlying sociopathy. We civilians cringe at the sick humor of doctors, nurses, soldiers, and cops thinking them to be callous. They are not unhinged— humor is their coping mechanism. They are deeply affected by what they see day after day, month after month, year after year.

People with PTSD are not weak, and Christians in particular need to grasp this truth.

Some Facts About PTSD

According to the DSM-5, the following is the Stressor Criterion:

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, as follows: (one required)

  1. Direct exposure.
  2. Witnessing, in person.
  3. Indirectly, by learning that a close relative or close friend was exposed to trauma. If the event involved actual or threatened death, it must have been violent or accidental.
  4. Repeated or extreme indirect exposure to aversive details of the event(s), usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, collecting body parts; professionals repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse). This does not include indirect non-professional exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures.

Symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Irritable or aggressive behavior
  2. Self-destructive or reckless behavior
  3. Hypervigilance
  4. Exaggerated startle response
  5. Problems in concentration
  6. Sleep disturbance
  7. Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive memories.
  8. Traumatic nightmares.
  9. Dissociative reactions (e.g., flashbacks) which may occur on a continuum from brief episodes to complete loss of consciousness.
  10. Intense or prolonged distress after exposure to traumatic reminders.
  11. Marked physiologic reactivity after exposure to trauma-related stimuli.

Getting Treatment

 

The biggest obstacle to recovering or coping with PTSD is failure to get treatment.

What do we do if we have a bacterial infection? We usually go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. If we get in a car accident with severe injuries, we don’t stand around bleeding. We go to the hospital and get help! PTSD needs proper treatment just like any other bo`dily trauma. 

What is proper treatment?

I am not a doctor, so I would first advise you to find a medical professional with specific experience in counseling trauma victims. A marriage and family therapist is not usually an expert in this area. Be specific in your search. You wouldn’t see a gastroenterologist for an eye problem. Don’t see the wrong kind of therapist for this either.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an emerging form of therapy making waves in the mental health industry. There is, of course, disagreement about it’s effectiveness, but I’ve heard from both professionals and patients of it’s amazing results.

Other forms of treatment include (but are not limited to): Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medication, family counseling (for the family affected by PTSD), and psychodynamic psychotherapy. Click the link to read more in-depth.

If you are a war veteran suffering from PTSD, I highly recommend getting in touch with Headstrong, a non-profit organization created by Veterans committed to helping fellow veterans recover from PTSD by getting them connected with EMDR therapists. I connected with them last year to inquire about help for my best friend, but since his PTSD wasn’t connected with his military time, they couldn’t help. However, the person I spoke to—a vet who had personally gone through this therapy and recovered—went out of his way to get me the names of clinics using EMDR therapy that he had personally vetted.

Don’t leave God out

We pray for healing of our illnesses, we pray for help with our struggles, and we ought to pray for recovery from mental illness with the same conviction. If you have a family member suffering from PTSD, you also need prayer and support. Give your pain over to the Lord—He is a safe harbor in the storm. Like any illness, we pray for healing, good treatment, and wisdom for the doctor. We pray for God to do His work and we also do what is within our power to do.


If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, take heart. There is hope for you to lead a happy and full life. Do not succumb to societal pressure to ignore the problem. Get the treatment you need and lean on God for support.

 

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “The Number One Myth Surrounding PTSD

    1. Thank you, J.

      This issue is very near and dear to me as I have witnessed PTSD in so many of my loved ones and now have a mild case myself. I want more than anything for us as Christians to be more compassionate toward those who suffer. Words wield so much power and too often we use them to inflict pain rather than healing. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! God be with you!

      Like

  1. Very good advice Elihu in what you shared here……….” We pray for healing of our illnesses, we pray for help with our struggles and we ought to pray for recovery from Mental illness with the same conviction. If you have a family member suffering from PTSD, you also need Prayer and Support. Give your pain over to the Lord, He is a safe harbor in the storm. Like any illness, we pray for healing, good treatment and wisdom for the doctor. We pray for God to do His work and we also do what is within our power to do.”

    Yes we do what is within our power, we remember that Paul said his thorn was because of his fleshy pride, he tells us we are to put our Carnal flesh to death (Romans 8 :12-15- Romans 6 -Colossians 3:4-6 -Galatians 5:24 -26) as we Aim to be perfected in Love ( Matthew 5:48 -Hebrews 6:1 -Philippians 3:14-16 -2Timithy 3:17-1 John 4:17-19 -1John 4:16-17 -2Corinthians 13:11) we than walk as Jesus did in Love and Righteousness. (1John3:6-7- 2 Corinthians7:1)

    For those who are Mentally Ill as you also shared we Trust God for healing, so they can also work out their Salvation with The Lord’s Strength and empowering knowing they are precious in His heart.

    Christian Love and Blessings Elihu for the New Year -Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment, Anne! I am so glad you mention trust in God. It makes a huge difference! I firmly believe this trust is developed over time. It is enhanced with daily reading and daily prayer because through these efforts we see God’s steadfast love, his faithfulness and his unchanging nature.

      God be with you, Anne!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your kind words Elihu, I was wondering have you ever experienced confusion with understanding God’s Truth? I did and His response to my confusion was life saving and changing, having been an Atheist for almost 30 years I knew that was a dead end but I had so many doubts I just didn’t know what was His Truth anymore even though I believed. I will leave a link for you in case you would like to know God’s answer to a very mixed up Child of His.

        My Confusion – http://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/my-battle-with-confusion/

        Thanks again Christian Love Always – Anne.

        Like

  2. Good post. I forgot which WW2 book I read this fall that mentioned how PTSD was at first assumed to be the sign of weak soldiers but the military soon had the dilemma in WW2 that some of the guys that were strong and “not cowards” were having symptoms of what we now call PTSD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, SlimJim! If you recall the title, I’d love to check it out. I have a great interest in history and biographies. I usually listen to them on audible. I am always amazed by how much we can learn from history just by looking over the life of one person. God be with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My daughter is in grad school studying counseling. Recently, in her internship, she has been observing clients being led through EMDR. She is so impressed with it that she has decided to seek certification in that modality after she graduates in May.

    I would just like to add that there’s no shame in weakness. If you and I both fall and I break my leg because I am older and my bones are weakened by osteoporosis, there is no reason for me to be offended or ashamed if someone calls my bones weak and your bones strong. If traumatic memories truly do get stuck and need help being processed and moved, then there is a weakness in the processing system, but that doesn’t mean the person who is having trouble processing the events is mentally or morally weak.

    What I’m trying to say is that I think a good start would be for us to stop associating weakness with shame. We’re all weak in one way or another… so what?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, Julie!

      We are all weak in different ways, and it is loathsome pride to proclaim otherwise. Paul boasted in his weakness in order to magnify the power of God in his life. I am delighted to hear about your daughter. It is my hope that as more people discover the effectiveness of this treatment that it will be more readily available to those who need it. My best friend consulted with a doctor who did EMDR, but his law enforcement agency wouldn’t cover it (this was work-related PTSD). They would only allow him to go to cognitive behavioral therapy. As a result, he didn’t recover from PTSD, had to retire from his career, and still struggles with it to this day. Veterans are facing similar obstacles.

      I wish your daughter success in her endeavors. Thank you for reading and your very excellent comment. It’s always a joy to hear from you.

      God be with you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing. Your feedback means a lot to me, especially since you suffer from PTSD. I hope and pray you get the comfort and strength you need.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. God wasn’t there for me during my hellish life, so I’m leaving religion out of this. Yes, Trump did put his foot in his mouth for his idiotic statement re: PTSD, but what do you expect from a narcissist? Well-written post. (please, all of the religious people out there, don’t voice your views or quote bible passages in response to my comment).

    Like

  5. You are so right about not everyone receiving healing. Everyone goes through things in life according to God’s will. I know that my ministry wouldn’t be as strong if I didn’t go through war and was forced to do things that I wasn’t made to do.
    I wrote in my book Combat Medic: A soldier’s story of the Iraq war and PTSD that if people focus more on Love, Family and salvation life will get easier to handle.

    Like

    1. First: Thank you for your service to our country.

      Second: Thank you for reading this post and sharing your experience here. I am so grateful to people who have endured the challenges of PTSD and are willing to share their experience in order to help others who feel alone. God can do great things through our painful experiences if we submit ourselves to His will.

      God be with you.

      For my readers: This book is available on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Combat-Medic-soldiers-story-Iraq/dp/1533330271/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1492001432&sr=8-2&keywords=Combat+Medic%3A+A+soldier%27s+story

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s