The subject of this blog says it all really; is PTSD a mental illness? I’ll set out by saying I’m not too sure of the answer. This morning I was adamant that my problems aren’t a mental illness (and I can only speak of my PTSD, so please don’t take offence at anything I write). However after being called obstinant and always think I’m right by my psychiatrist, I’m opening my mind to other answers.
This is my original stance. Before the 2 years of pretty much continual trauma, I was ok. I was living quite a decent life and moving in the direction I wanted to be going and then I got in with a bad bunch for people and, well, you know the rest! And then we have the after effects, the fact that I’m openly not coping very well with what happened to me and I struggle on a daily basis to even function at a low level (in terms of not going out, not seeing people, not eating properly etc). To me though, this is because of what happened and therefore is me struggling with life events, not suffering from a mental illness.
And then we have the other side of the argument. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, it’s an illness in the ICD 10 (the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organisation). As a side note, some countries use the DSM IV (or V). There is a overwhelming amount of evidence that says when you suffer from PTSD, the areas of your brain actually become more/less active than before – just like with depression. So surely with this amount of evidence, it should be easy to answer my original question and say of course it is; it’s an illness and also to do with the brain and so therefore classed as a mental illness.
The problem I have here, is one of those arguments is based in science and other in life – if I hadn’t have had my trauma, I wouldn’t be asking this question. But it’s the same with the depression element of my diagnosis. It isn’t an organic depression (ie, it’s not come about on its own), it is based on social circumstances and if I didn’t have PTSD, I wouldn’t have depression either and so it’s the same question – is that depression mental illness or just not reacting well with the way my life has gone?
I had this conversation with my care co-ordinator as she said I am poorly and if I asked 20 lay people if I had a mental illness they would say yes. And so I took to twitter and actually, some people said no, I didn’t. Which begs the next question. If PTSD is a mental illness, why don’t people recognise it as such? And these were people who have either an interest in or illnesses themselves by the way!
So is PTSD a highly stigmatised diagnosis in the mental health field? I’ve got a feeling that I’m not helping my cause by saying I’m just reacting badly to a situation and not giving my diagnosis the respect I should. But by doing that and accepting something is actually mentally wrong with me, I think I’m giving up control of something I’m not quite ready to do yet. Is this having a detrimental effect on my treatment and life? I’m really not sure!
Sorry if I’ve not expressed myself very well, as always I write as I think and don’t edit to make sure I don’t lose the point I’m trying to make.
I’d be interested to hear other viewpoints on this.