From the April 2009 Scientific American Magazine
The syndrome of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is under fire because its defining criteria are too broad, leading to rampant overdiagnosis.
The flawed PTSD concept may mistake soldiers’ natural process of adjustment to civilian life for dysfunction.
Misdiagnosed soldiers receive the wrong treatments and risk becoming mired in a Veterans Administration system that encourages chronic disability.
In 2006, soon after returning from military service in Ramadi, Iraq, during the bloodiest period of the war, Captain Matt Stevens of the Vermont National Guard began to have a problem with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Stevens’s problem was not that he had PTSD. It was that he began to have doubts about PTSD: the condition was real enough, but as a diagnosis he saw it being wildly, even dangerously, overextended.
Stevens led the medics tending an armored brigade of 800 soldiers, and his team patched together GIs and Iraqi citizens almost every day. He saw horrific things. Once home, he said he had his share of “nights where I’d wake up and it would be clear I wasn’t going to sleep again.”
He was not surprised: “I would expect people to have nightmares for a while when they came back.” But as he kept track of his unit in the U.S., he saw troops greeted by both a larger culture and a medical culture especially in the Veterans Administration (VA) that seemed reflexively to view bad memories, nightmares and any other sign of distress as an indicator of PTSD.