With the ever-changing definition of PTSD, the door opened to the widespread creation of numerous federally funded programs and the unwarranted granting of services designed to treat legitimate cases to those that did not need treatment. This abuse places a significant strain on military budgets, which in turn prevent those that truly need the help from receiving it.
The military and medical communities should question whether these programs and treatments are necessary, especially when history shows that relatively simple methods effectively treated PTSD and its predecessors. Comparatively, treatments today have become distorted and more complex without success.
Unless the military uncovers the true cause for the growing numbers of reported psychological injuries reported by non-combat troops, healthcare providers will continue to over diagnose otherwise healthy soldiers and create a new breed of “psycho-soldiers”. This will deplete our ready reserve forces on which future operations greatly depend.
To appreciate the significance of the prolific diagnosis of PTSD within the Army Reserve, we must first recognize and acknowledge that the military and medical profession treated war-related psychological injuries with relative effectiveness from the American Civil War throughout the Vietnam War. Mere medical practices did not result in successful treatments.
In fact, successful medical treatments depended on minimizing the medicalization of soldiers’ emotional reactions to combat. Unfortunately, each war disregarded lessons of the past, including the effect of societal influences on treatment and recovery. This resulted in the emergence of similar successful methods of treating psychological injuries after each war.
The advent of the Vietnam War introduced a new dynamic as political posturing began to influence how society, the military, and healthcare professionals treated psychological injuries. Anti-war psychiatrists and psychologists created the Vietnam legacy and PTSD. Through a series of politically motivated moves, anti-war psychiatrists and psychologists manipulated the psychological wounds—real and imagined—of many soldiers to gain societal support to advance an anti-war platform.
It is no wonder that the Vietnam War’s greatest legacy has been the creation of PTSD. The explosion in the number of PTSD cases following the long national nightmare of Vietnam caused a fundamental shift in long-held concepts of military psychiatry.
Since then the definition of PTSD has gone through a series of changes and reinterpretations to such an extent that its relationship to war-related psychological injuries is all but lost. Its broadened interpretation has opened Pandora’s box of over-diagnoses, costly unintended consequences, and suspected abuses.
Today, PTSD is a common and almost expected outcome of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is puzzling is the high rate in which Army Reservists report it. Army Reservists are not at as great a risk of injury as traditional combat units, yet they still exhibit symptoms consistent with PTSD criteria.
I contend that the Vietnam Legacy fostered an environment within the military, medical community, and society that led to the increased reporting of psychological injuries and the prevalence of PTSD within the Army Reserve.