Friday, March 29, 2013

Disordered or Not -- That is the Question

There was a heated Twitter chat last Wednesday that raised a few questions and really got me thinking.  I'm happy to report that I still have a few brain cells left even after all of that dissertation writing, so I thought I'd think out loud, write about it here, and ask you guys your thoughts.

The topic was right up my alley. Trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder, and posttraumatic growth.  It's my dissertation right there!

Here is where the discussion got heated: Several people made a really great point about the word "disorder."  Reactions to life crises -- depression, anxiety, nightmares, etc. -- are all "normal" symptoms; so why call it a disorder? [normal in quotes, because it was later asked, of course, what is normal]

The DSM-IV (the diagnostic manual for us headshrinkers) states something to the effect of posttraumatic stress becomes a disorder when the symptoms last for more than a month, and clinicians are to specify other things like "acute" or "chronic," etc. 

Now.  I don't consider the DSM the bible for mental health.  I believe that everyone is an individual with a shared human experience, which means, everyone gets to decide what normal is for them.   The manual attempts to make some sense of the human experience and categorize it for general scientific purposes as well as, let's face it, for insurance purposes.

Back to the word disorder.  I understand the negative connotation to the word disorder, of course.  It's inescapable.  But, if one looks at the word as something neutral to describe a thing, it means out of order.  Unless, of course, it's an out of order toilet.  Then it's just out of order.  Digressing...

(I just thought, "That toilet has a disorder."  Haha!)  Digressing again...

Here's what made me think:  If reactions like depression, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance are all normal reactions to a crisis, why is it called a disorder?  Do you think those things are normal reactions?  Do you think if one has these symptoms for a month or more that it's suddenly a disorder?

Put in terms of infertility:  If you've been dealing with infertility, it's obviously been for longer than a month.  If you've had symptoms of depression, anxiety, nightmares, etc., do you think you have PTSD?  Are your symptoms, in fact, disordered?

Bonus: Do you think something good can ever come of your experience with infertility?

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