Think Tank’s Claim: Soldiers Faking Post-Battle Stress
Posted on Jul 10, 2006
The American Enterprise Institute suspects that U.S. soldiers are fabricating instances of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Blogger Respectful of Otters dismantles the claims.
Gen. George Patton famously made the same charge during WWII. He was made to apologize and almost lost his command. Wonder if the AEI will suffer an analogous fate?
Respectful of Otters:
... This is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder in which a person who has experienced or come into close contact with serious trauma later experiences crippling levels of anxiety, combined with vivid re-experiencing of the traumatic event and an intense desire to avoid anything that might bring the trauma to mind or trigger anxiety symptoms. PTSD is known to have a strong biological component; severe stress causes lasting alterations in brain neurochemistry. Trauma appears to damage specific receptors responsible for regulating catecholamines, which are hormones essential to the stress response. In people with PTSD, these stress hormones are elevated, leaving them constantly on the verge of a neurochemically-induced panic. “It’s not fashionable,” according to Canadian conservative columnist Margaret Wente, to be derisive of people going through that experience. But she courageously does her best all the same.
Wente’s got a column up in The Globe and Mail, a Canadian national newspaper, that’s been attracting favorable commentary even from bloggers who are ordinarily thoughtful and intelligent. (The column is behind a subscribers-only link, but you can currently access it through Google here). In the column, she suggests that PTSD in soldiers and veterans (and especially in the Canadian forces) is exaggerated and overdiagnosed, and insinuates that servicemembers diagnosed with PTSD are either whiners (“War is hell. But life can be pretty rough, too. You don’t need battle trauma to cope badly with it.”) or goldbrickers out for an easy life on disability benefits (“some people will abuse the system if it is financially attractive”). Her claims demonstrate little acquaintance with the scientific literature on PTSD; instead, they are heavily based on arguments by an American psychiatrist named Sally Satel, who is affiliated with and funded by the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute. Satel’s - and, by extension, Wente’s - claims about PTSD are baseless. Let’s look at them one at a time.
George C. Scott, playing Gen. George Patton in the 1970 biopic, slaps a soldier who was suffering from what is now termed post-traumatic stress syndrome, but what Patton considered cowardice. The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, has channeled Patton by claiming that many of today’s soldiers are faking their battle stress syndromes.