PTSD is real. It is a real disorder with real consequences for those who suffer from it and the people who love them. I’ve been in the military almost 20 years and I’ve seen it plenty. But I also know that it only affects those who really have it. I’ve also come to learn that PTSD is the perfect tool for frauds and exaggerators because it relies almost entirely on self-reporting, and its symptoms can be easily faked. Oftentimes doctors can’t even tell the real cases from the fakers, and a whole little “cottage industry” has cropped up to help people fake PTSD. There are perverse incentives associated with claiming PTSD, and very little chance of ever getting caught for a fraudulent claim.
Right now there is no “better” label for someone seeking attention or money than that of a PTSD victim. Need attention? Claim PTSD! Need to shut someone down who is getting the better of you in a political argument? Claim PTSD! Need an excuse for your own bad behavior? Claim PTSD! It’s the cure-all label for what ails you. No one can criticize you after you say you have it, because you’re a victim. People are reluctant to punish you for your misconduct, because you’re a victim. Even better, the government will even pay you for it. You don’t even have to prove you have it, you just have to apply that label to yourself, and *poof* instant gratification. Civilian first responders now regularly claim to be fully disabled from having witnessed the aftermath of traumatic situations, even ones in which they were never in any danger themselves.
And lest readers of this article think that the military community is immune from sketchy PTSD claims, consider this example: “…she viewed large amounts of imagery showing insurgents being killed. That led to PTSD and severe depression. She will receive a small veterans payment because of her illness.” PTSD from combat voyeurism, that’s a new one. I wonder if I can use that precedent to put in a claim from all those times I got my ass kicked in Call of Duty in between missions; it sounds like pretty much the same thing.
The potential for fraud is especially bad in the Veterans Administration (VA) which is perpetually (and quite correctly) under attack for not “doing more” to help out veterans. So what’s their solution? Over-diagnose everything—“PTSD all around!” And VA doctors are not the only ones that default to the PTSD diagnosis, as I experienced first hand. After suffering months of poor sleep, vivid nightmares, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating while in graduate school, I went to see a local civilian doctor who said my complaints were consistent with sleep apnea… until he found out I was a veteran. Then he wanted to diagnose me with PTSD.