I often find myself caught between two feelings. The first is the instinct to correct and clarify when someone misuses a term associated with my experience. The second is the desire to be understanding and non-judgmental. After all, everyone’s trauma is valid, no matter its source. However, there’s a marked difference between experiencing some life challenges and having a disorder that is deeply rooted in complex trauma.
Lately, there seems to be an increasing trend wherein the term “PTSD” (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is thrown around in casual conversations, often pertaining to mild inconveniences or day-to-day challenges. I’ve heard statements like, “I have PTSD from that awful exam” or “That movie gave me PTSD!” While these statements are most likely meant in jest, they gloss over the profound impact and weight the condition carries for those truly diagnosed with PTSD or its more intense variant, C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
For those unfamiliar with C-PTSD, it’s a condition that stems from prolonged exposure to traumatic events, often during critical developmental periods such as childhood.
The effects are deep-seated and pervasive, impacting nearly every facet of our lives, from our relationships to our self-worth. It isn’t just about “having a bad day.” It’s about reliving traumatic moments day in and day out, experiencing emotional flashbacks, and constantly grappling with a heightened state of alertness, expecting danger even in the safest environments.
When PTSD is made light of, the message is that our experiences are just simple overreactions or that we’re being histrionic. Such a limited understanding equates trauma with common daily stresses or short-lived negative experiences. But let’s be clear: PTSD and C-PTSD aren’t about a generally bad day or experience. These disorders involve traumatic events that have left a lasting mark on our psyche.
Using PTSD as a catch-all phrase for distress also overlooks the real stigma that survivors face. There’s a pervasive myth that those with PTSD are unstable and dangerous. Many of us are hesitant to disclose our diagnoses for fear of being perceived as “damaged” or “broken.” We struggle in silence, hiding our pain, and overcompensating so as not to appear weak. The casual misrepresentation of PTSD only serves to further isolate us.
The widespread misuse of the term PTSD can also create more challenges for those who genuinely suffer from PTSD or C-PTSD, particularly when they seek help or wish to be taken seriously. By making it “fashionable” or trendy, we run the risk of watering down the severity and the recognition of real symptoms.
I hope for a world where mental health issues, including PTSD and C-PTSD, are understood and respected. While it’s essential to create an open dialogue about mental health and break the silence surrounding trauma, it’s equally crucial to ensure that the conversation is informed and compassionate. Those who live with these conditions daily should not be belittled or trivialized.
If you are someone who has used PTSD colloquially, I urge you to reflect on your language.
Consider the weight of your words and the impact they might have on those around you.
And for those reading this post who truly understand the depth of trauma, know that your experiences are valid. You are not alone, and your strength is immeasurable.
Wendy Hoke is the author of The Bishop’s Cross: A Journey to the Truth and co-author of The Church of Gomorrah: When Sexual Abusers Remain in the Church. Her grandfather was a pedophile who preyed on little girls in his own family. The Bishop’s Cross looks into the family dynamics that enable a child molester to continue unabated.
She has been successfully writing for others for many years, first in the financial industry and now as a content curator and ghost blogger. She has finally put pen to paper to tell her own story. You can contact her directly through her website, wendyhoke.com.