Three Reads that Answer Vital Questions About PTSD
To many, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mysterious beast. In part, that’s because traumatic stress is not a normal aspect of life in the western world. However, public servants (be they soldiers, police officers, corrections officers, EMTs, firefighters, nurses, or doctors) are regularly faced with traumatic stressors.
For public servants, their families, and those who wish to better understand them, even a brief overview of PTSD can provide valuable insights into the mechanism, consequences, and societal approaches associated with PTSD.
What follows are a few brief reads for those looking to better understand PTSD.
How Does PTSD Work?
After Lt. Col. Dave Grossman wrote On Killing, it became a classic for any involved in the combatant arts. Task & Purpose blog’s Adam Linehan and illustrator Matt Battaglia teamed up with Grossman to produce a stunning visual guide to the fundamental lessons of On Killing. The result was This is Your Brain on War.
The piece leverages the technology of a blog to pair Grossman’s insights with dynamic illustrations. They explore what the brain does when faced with a lethal threat, and how the brain records signals of extraordinary danger. They also explore how the brain can call back these memories and physiological reactions when reminded of stressful situations. That process is at the heart of PTSD.
On Killing is a great read. But those looking for a brief primer on combat physiology and PTSD should start with This is Your Brain on War. It’s a succinct lay of the land, and it’s free.
Why does PTSD matter?
PTSD is no joke. It’s not a ticket to an easy life. It’s not a get out of jail free card. It’s a debilitating disease.
Ignoring it will not make it go away. Alcohol will not make it go away. Whether you are suffering or a peer is suffering symptoms, it is vital to prioritize treatment over macho inclinations.
The New York Times Magazine’s The Fighter, by CJ Chivers, chronicles the worst-case scenario: A decorated Marine who leaves devastating PTSD untreated. A spiral into substance abuse. A life-changing decision. Prison.
The story ends on an optimistic note, but we’re years from knowing if it will truly end in redemption.
Don’t read it to terrify yourself. Read it to put a human face on the disease. Read it to remember a story about the symptoms. Read it so you can recognize the first part of the story before you or someone you love lives through its more tragic chapters.
What should society do about it?
For those suffering PTSD symptoms, treatment is the most important course of action. But those who are not mental health practitioners can contribute to a society that mitigates, rather than exacerbates, PTSD.
Enter Sebastian Junger’s brief and very readable Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. Printed on small pages and clocking in at only 192 pages, Junger’s book is a quick read. It is a meditation on a surprisingly wide range of subjects including anthropology, psychology, and the author’s own insights from time as a combat correspondent.
Junger explores past rites of passage for warriors returning to society after battle. He discusses how we might mirror these same rites to contribute to the positive resolution of psychological injury.
While Junger focuses on combat, his lessons are every bit as applicable to any warrior who enters a foreign world, be it a terrible neighborhood, a detention facility, a burning building, or even a hospital, only to return to “polite” society seeking acceptance.
While Tribe is not a book specifically about PTSD, readers who approach it asking themselves what it can teach about how we treat those with the disease will learn volumes.
What else should we know?
What other reading do you consider vital for those who seek to understand PTSD? What questions should we be asking? What answers should we be finding?
Leave a comment to let us know...