The Moral Dimensions Of PTSD

Warren Kinghorn | | November 13, 2012

On this Veterans Day, hundreds of thousands of veterans suffer from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That medical diagnosis shouldn't disguise that this is more than a medical problem.

Combat in Iraq is over, and in Afghanistan it is winding down, but its heavy emotional toll remains. In 2012, more Army soldiers have died by suicide than have died by hostile fire in Afghanistan. An estimated 10 percent-20 percent of returning combat veterans meet criteria for PTSD. When these veterans come to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities or other medical providers, they are often treated with medication and, increasingly, by short-term courses of talk therapy, which are known to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms.

That is far from enough. As a VA psychiatrist, I frequently diagnose veterans with PTSD and offer treatments that I believe to be helpful, even lifesaving. But I am wary of the way medical models often bring with them two assumptions about combat trauma that can be harmful to combat veterans' return to normal civilian lives...