Why isn’t PTSD labeled a disease like alcoholism?

Could be triggering…

I’ve known alcoholics. I have heard many of them say that alcoholism is a disease. I am not disputing that. I am asking some other questions. If addiction to alcohol is a disease then how can anxiety disorders NOT be labeled a disease? How can PTSD NOT be a disease? I didn’t choose to be molested. I didn’t choose to have that create PTSD or chronic anxiety. But it did. Those events altered my brain. So much so that some days I can barely function. I can never function like a “normal” person. It FEELS like I have a disease in my brain. Anxiety and PTSD feel like a disease. It even feels like sometimes it is killing me just like a disease. But those two can only be disorders but not diseases. Tourette syndrome is a syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a syndrome. Who decides what gets to be labeled what? I am sure there is a mathematical/symptoms/criteria, but I don’t understand it. As long as alcoholism can be constituted a disease and PTSD cannot then no matter what equation they have come up with to give it this label I will not understand it. It just seems that if you have a “disease” then you are offered more help. Even with my muscle disease I have been in multiple free of charge to me, studies. There is currently no cure for my muscle disease but a lot of money from different organizations have been put into studying me. If only that amount of money were free for my mental health. My other thought on alcoholism being labeled a disease is this: There is an underlying reason why that person drank that alcohol that has not been addressed. I suppose someone could be a casual drinker and become addicted because they are more prone to addictive behaviors but what if the person who is an alcoholic chose to drink to dull the pain. What if they chose to drink to drown out their sorrow. What if they chose to drink to numb depression and anxiety. That leads me back to anxiety and PTSD being huge in the realm of mental health. What IF PTSD, depression, and anxiety cause alcoholism. Shouldn’t those disorders get the same attention and support? Another question is: How can and alcoholic so easily get help? They can go to an AA meeting. There is a specific program for an alcoholic to go through that even has a reward system, support, etc. There is not a building I can just walk into anonymously and discuss my PTSD. Why isn’t there? Because it is taboo. PTSD and anxiety and sexual abuse for that matter are not discussed. Now, you can say the word sexual abuse and get a cringe but you still may have a temporarily audience. Get into details and that makes sexual abuse too real. No one wants sexual abuse to be real. No one wants PTSD to be real. No one wants to know that someone experienced or saw some thing so horrifying that it left them with mental scars. A soldier can not come home and discuss carnage openly because no one wants to hear it. Shouldn’t mental scars get a disease diagnosis? They don’t and so they get stuffed down, they get silenced, and all that pain just gets worse and worse. I have no doubt that some alcoholics are direct results of self medicating PTSD, anxiety, depression and more. So why is the underlying cause not addressed in a more widely acceptable way?The label is not necessarily what I find upsetting. Disease, syndrome, or disorder, is not what has me riled up. It is how they are treated. If you are an alcoholic you absolutely deserve treatment. You deserve help and a program and support, absolutely. And I am freaking thrilled that there are programs that can help someone who is struggling. I simply want the same for other mental health issues. I want to have 5 different locations that every night at 6 I can walk into and talk about my anxiety attacks, or my PTSD. I want to open up the language and make what we are going through real to others. Sexual abuse is barely whispered. There is not an open forum for men and women to discuss what someone else did to them against their will. If other people hear about it they will have to validate it exists. And no one wants to validate sexual abuse. Look at my own family. They all stopped talking to me because I talked about what really happened. I used the harsh words of abuse. Abuse is not pretty and has no red ribbon. My family did not want to hear that I had a penis in my hand at 13 years old and was forced to watch porn at 11. They would rather cover their ears, never talk to me again, and say lalalalala to make it all go away. My family is one tiny percent that unfortunately represents MOST of society. They don’t want to hear it. If they don’t want to hear it then the abused have no one to support them, no validation, no help. That needs to change.  

I know there are a few sporadic infrequent support groups out there for PTSD. The reason I am comparing it to alcoholism is because alcoholism is recognized and acceptably discussed. ” I am 6 months sober” That is fantastic. I do not minimize that achievement at all, but it is said and it is celebrated. I just wonder how I would feel if I had the same celebration if I said “I made it 3 hours without a panic attack”. It would sure be nice to have a pat on the back and a hoorah for me. I can’t get a pat because there is no program, there is no acknowledgement, It took me 20 years of therapy to even get a diagnosis of PTSD. Just now after all this time it is recognized that this is what I have been suffering from. That is not okay. I want ALL mental health to be viewed and treated equally. I am not at ALL saying that being an alcoholic does not come without a stigma attached too. I know that it does . And it shouldn’t. It just happens to have more programs to assist those who suffer from it. And I am GLAD for that. I just want more for EVERYTHING ELSE. I don’t think that is too much to ask. But if a girl’s own family cannot handle it, perhaps society isn’t able to either. But listen, if I made it through the abuse, society needs to buck up, get some balls, put their big girl panties on, and as a collective unit HELP US. It is hard to do alone. It is isolating. We deserve more. I am holding out hope that all stigmas will be dropped and open communication will exist for mental health. 

And since I have spoken so much about alcoholism, I will further my passion to those suffering alcoholism as well by saying,  they need more help too!!! So they have a program, and meetings which I want for all mental health but ONE doesn’t work for everyone. If it did, we would not see homeless alcoholics and we would not see alcoholics committing suicide. If the program didn’t work, and whatever underlying cause, wasn’t treated, they need more options too. We all need more. We all deserve more! If AA doesn’t work, there needs to be another group. 

There needs to be more focus on breaking the silence for every single mental health disorder/syndrome/disease that exists. Things have to change. Even if it only starts one family at a time. One father who listens. One mother who holds her daughter. One brother who stands by his brother who was abused. One sister who stands with her sister who was raped. One person at a time if that’s what it takes. But it needs to start now. 

50 thoughts on “Why isn’t PTSD labeled a disease like alcoholism?

  1. I guess I’m lucky to live somewhere where it is considered an illness and treated with the seriousness I need it to be both at work and by my doctors and friends. I’m sorry that you don’t have that experience and that many others lack it as well. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could not agree more. Society is addressing all sorts of problems but what worth is it if it does not perceive abuse and its consequences as one of its major threats. It is like a malignous tumor that consumes society from within, and our cure is to ignore it. It won’t work out in a system where the masses nowadays are thrilled by over-sexualization, objectification, humiliation and where one gets the feeling that our opinion making media, our politics and our so called heros are dominated by a bunch of psychopaths.

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  3. I hear you loud and clear on this one.

    My husband has a weekly support group for combat veterans with PTSD. They meet at a nearby VA clinic. Their meetings are moderated by a therapist. My husband has become close friends with a couple of the men in that group. They are a great support for each other.

    I am so happy that my husband has that support. I just wish I had the same thing. But the weekly support meeting is only open to military war veterans.

    Years ago, when I lived in a large city, I was so happy when a nearby veteran center started a weekly therapist facilitated support group for the wives of combat veterans with PTSD. I faithfully went every week for about two months… until I could not take it any more. Although the other wives knew that I had been diagnosed with PTSD too, not just my husband, they spent the entire hour every week complaining incessantly about how hard it is to live with someone who has PTSD. They were all so ANGRY about their husband’s issues. They talked about how annoying his startle reflex was, how his nightmares interrupted their sleep, how their lives were curtailed by his fear of crowds, etc etc. I always left those meetings feeling worse than I had felt when I walked in. And when I tried to explain things, like how I also have a bad startle reflex and how miserable that is and how I CAN’T HELP IT — I was basically ignored! They all looked impatient, like “when are you going to stop talking so we can get back to our complaints?”

    I have considered trying to start my own PTSD support group. But, you know what — I am not up to doing that, because I have PTSD.

    By the way, for a couple of years in my thirties, I did a lot of binge drinking to medicate the PTSD I did not yet know I had. Drinking only made my life crazier, of course, so I stopped. On January 15, it will be 27 years since I took my last alcoholic drink.

    I quit going to AA meetings about 12 years ago, though, because I couldn’t talk about what was REALLY bothering me: my PTSD issues!

    ((HUG))

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! This is so insightful and I so appreciate you writing this.
      Sitting there listening to the complaints, knowing that you had the same thing must have just made everything worse. Its so insensitive to you and what you have been through and also their husbands. I mean, truly, we cannot help it!
      Congrats on being alcohol free! I am so glad you realized it was not for you and just made things crazier!
      How long did it take for you to get a diagnosis? When I first got married my husband and I had no idea why I woke up screaming and had anxiety issues. It took us being married 20 years for this diagnosis that I should have received back at age 16 when I attempted suicide because of the abuse.
      You know, I am so glad you mentioned starting the group, I thought about it too, but I didn’t for the same reasons.
      Thank you for sharing you and your husband’s journey. I am so glad he has a support group. I didn’t know that veterans did! That’s really fantastic and so deserved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • How long did it take me to get a diagnosis? The answer: almost four decades.

        My initial PTSD symptoms began in 1965, when I was 12 years old. My parents were having a terrible fight, and I was climbing out the window to get help, when I heard what I thought was my dad shooting and killing my mother. I was so traumatized, that I went deaf! A few minutes later, when I discovered that my mother was alive, my hearing came back like someone had flipped a switch in my brain! But I continued to have extreme dissociative symptoms, feeling like nothing was real, feeling like I wasn’t real, throughout the traumas that followed: dad being arrested, our home foreclosed on, my deeply depressed mother trying to gas us all to death, and more.

        Two years later, in 1967, I was taken to see a psychiatrist for the first time. He thought I was faking my symptoms to “get attention,” because my mother had just remarried and was about to have a baby.

        PTSD did not become an official psychiatric label until 1980. But for many years after that, it was considered to mainly affect combat veterans.

        My PTSD diagnosis, for a mental health issue that started when I was 12, didn’t happen until 2003, a few weeks before I turned 50!

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  4. I am in AA. I have cptsd (at last a dx I can get behind!), I am a survivor of incest and ritual abuse. Alcoholism is a disease which, regardless of underlying causes, needs to be treated because our bodies (and our minds?) have what is considered an abnormal reaction to alcohol. I don’t know how ‘abnormal” it can be, given how many alcoholics there are, but it is a disease, which being an incest survivor and having cptsd is not. Not that there aren’t plenty of alcoholics who started out (and/or ended up) self-medicating other problems. My father-in-law’s father drank himself into a stupor every night of his life, until his doctor told him he had to stop. He did. He was not an alcoholic, despite decades of heavy drinking. I had a friend, in AA and NA, who at ten years clean announced to me that there were some things he just couldn’t work the steps around. He blew his head off. He made a choice. He could have talked to others in the program, he could have sought outside help, he chose not to.

    How much pain must he have been in that eating a bullet looked like a better idea than working on his issues and getting better? He wasn’t in more pain than me, in the depths of recovery, and having you-are-there flashbacks. But I wasn’t going to do that to my kids – I made a different choice.

    Not that I’m against there being more help and less stigma, but we all make choices every day. Your family made a choice to cut you off rather than face being complicit in what happened to you and others. That’s my take on it. I have no family except that which I have made for myself. The help is there, it’s just not behind the usual doors. My present day family consists of my husband, kids, and people who have been ‘family’ to me in the hard years. We used to call each other ‘war buddies.’

    It is miserable to live in a society in which adults prey on children, and other adults look away, condone, blame the victim. I took it to heart that I had to be the change I wanted to see in the world. Now I don’t see children being hurt or adults who were hurt as children without making sure that I am there, even if no one else is. One of the ways I heal myself. It isn’t up to me to heal the world, but I do try to do my part. Ain’t life fun as a crippled survivor? Well, now it is, but it took a lot of work, and brutal honesty. Just saying.

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  5. I totally agree! Things like PTSD and alcoholism are a lot more similar than most people realize. Bear with me for a moment. Because of being introduced to the world of energy healing about six years ago, and because of healing my own PTSD using a variety of energy healing modalities, I understand that both PTSD and all addictions are diseases at the level of our spirit. They are caused by a fracturing of our spirit from ourselves, and they can be healed. I have been a food addict since I was a toddler, and I am healing that in layers. Where I am today is miles from where I was six years ago. The medical industry doesn’t understand the true nature of the cause of disease, because they only address the physical body. This is slowly changing. Very slowly. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want you to know that you can heal PTSD, addiction, and even physical illness without drugs, because that would put them out of business. I have healed diabetes (type2) and severe, chronic, acid reflux. I completely agree with you that people with PTSD must be supported in every way equally to those with alcoholism and other addictions. But quite honestly, the medical community doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of how these are created in a person, and they don’t have the tools or skills to heal them. (They treat, not heal). Energy healers do. As I’ve learned about healing, through my own experiences of it over the past six years, I write about it on my 2 blogs.

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      • My two blogs are linked to my gravatar picture. They are Remembering My Divinity (my newer blog), and Life Is A Journey… Not A Guided Tour (been writing since June 2010). I tag and categorize healing posts using energy healing and hypnosis most often. These days, I’m putting more of the nuts and bolts details about my healing sessions on Remembering My Divinity. ❤ ❤

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      • Sometimes I get so frustrated with the medical community because of what they don’t know. Way back when, doctors and healers were one in the same. Then they split. Today, I work with both medical doctors and intuitive healers, and I believe everyone should. You’ve inspired me to write more about how I use these both in my life.

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  6. Bethany, you can start these groups and make them more prevalent in our society with less stigma attached. I am a therapist working in private practice, and yes, PTSD, sexual abuse, anxiety, depression are all common diagnoses and therapeutic discussion topics. Therapists do offer group therapy and support groups for these common disorders/diseases, but it’s the people who suffer who are not ready to come out to participate fully in a group setting with others. It will take social advocacy to change society and make these groups more widely available and participation less stigmatic. People like you, who PTSD personally affects, are the best to tell this story and lead this movement. Hang in there and maybe this can be your next calling/cause? Maybe work with mental health funding sources to get grants for them?

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    • Thank you so much for your comment and suggestion. I will take this to heart and see what I can do! Currently I cannot drive but hoping maybe that will change. Pending my muscle disease getting more tolerable. My therapist doesnt offer any group support groups. I used to work with hospice and they had a grief group which was fantastic. Maybe they will donate space. Thank you again.

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  7. Hi, I read this with tears in my eyes.
    I too have PTSD, I was searching for blogs and came across yours. You are one amazing person and it looks like you have overcome a lot.
    My PTSD started back last year when my boyfriend passed away. I refused to grieve and insisted on working. I was meant to be going to Oz in Jan this year, got on the plane and had a massive panic attack while on the plane, I turned around at DUbai and came back to the UK. My doctor said this is what made it all explode.
    I’ve been through such a crap time in the past also and never really dealt with it. Always been the strong one.
    So yeah.. My story in a nutshell.. Dealing with PTSD, newly diagnosed is a kick in the teeth and extremely hard to do..
    You’re doing fab hun! xx

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    • Oh my gosh I am just so sorry to hear you have had such loss and such scary experiences! Being on that plane must have just been awful. I know that feeling of trapped and panic and it is truly a terrifying experience. I’m glad you found my blog. Thank you for the kind words. PTSD is a terribly thing to have. I didn’t know I had it half my life until the right doctor finally diagnosed me. She knew within 5 minutes that this was what I was suffering from. And like you I think it was the culmination of too much and my brain just started these panics. Are you doing any sort of treatment right now ? Anything helping?

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      • It really was so scary, the idea and thoughts of not being able to get out of the situation was so scary. But when I have panic attacks in public I tend to not tell people, I try to get through it myself. Thankfully, I had a very quick diagnosis very soon after the plane incident. I start counselling on friday, which previously hasnt worked. But I’m willing to give it a go. I also take Duloxetine. And see my GP every week religiously. How about you?

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