PTSD: “Drama” is not “Trauma”

Updated: June 25, 2014


By Havoc13

It seems there are a lot of people out there these days who don’t quite understand PTSD. I specifically include myself among them; PTSD is a complicated subject, and my medical knowledge is limited largely to what one might be exposed to in bar fights and on battlefields. I fully concede that mental health issues aren’t my forte, and there aren’t any fancy letters after my name to indicate an advanced medical degree. But I don’t have to be a doctor to recognize fishy PTSD claims, no more than I have to be a rancher in order to recognize bullshit when I see it.

And there have been a lot of bullshit PTSD claims out there lately.

ptsdtrollLast month, we wrote an article outlining the BS PTSD claims of a woman named Melody Hensley, who other things wants us to believe that she acquired PTSD from mean things she read about herself online. You read that right: PTSD… from the Internet. The same thing that afflicts thousands of people after surviving things like sexual abuse, horrific accidents, and combat, she got from hurt feelings. Well, that’s a new one: “trauma by Internet troll,” as if there’s someone lurking out there in cyberspace just waiting for the opportunity to transmit a serious medical condition to poor, unsuspecting liberal activists.

As we expected, Hensley’s colleagues in the professional grievance industry were quick to pounce after we wrote about her dodgy PTSD story. The same people who don’t care one iota about veterans’ issues and would never visit the places where our work is posted were quickly alerted to what they perceived as an attack on one of their media darlings and flooded the military-themed sites that hosted our article on Hensley. Once there they enthusiastically began attacking us, the host sites… pretty much everything except the facts. They tried to silence us. It didn’t work. They should understand by now that the truth speaks louder than collective hysteria.

Now we’re learning about the case of Lisa Weiszmiller, who was booted out of the Army for misconduct during initial entry training and awarded an “Other Than Honorable” discharge. More than 30 years and many bad life choices later, Weiszmiller found herself in trouble with the law on yet another drug charge; meth is a helluva drug. But this time Weiszmiller was somehow able to parlay her military service (such as it was) into a veterans’ diversion program. In that program, which she only qualified for because she wore an Army uniform for a couple of months before getting kicked out, she was able to get her discharge upgraded. This in turn opened the door to compensation and benefits. But the veteran gravy trail doesn’t end there! Apparently, because of the things that were said to her while she in the military, a career that apparently ended before she even got to her first duty station, Weiszmiller now claims she has… you guessed it, PTSD.   I guess we’ll call this one “disability due to Drill Sergeant.”

Weiszmiller’s case represents a disturbing trend: these days, it seems like whenever someone with military service gets in trouble with the law, you can bet that the PTSD defense will come out. “I didn’t do it, but if I did, it’s because of my PTSD.” It’s becoming more and more prevalent in the civilian community too; because it’s so hard to prove someone doesn’t have PTSD, it has become the go-to condition for people seeking attention and/or a government payout. Not only does this kind of chicanery allow people to use a non-existent medical condition to dodge responsibility for their own bad behavior and/or to receive financial handouts from the government, it also makes life harder for those men and women—military and civilian—who actually do suffer from PTSD.

It’s very hard for me to buy a PTSD claim based on humiliation and hurt feelings. It’s also hard for me to consider someone who didn’t even make it out of basic training to be a veteran. But, like I said from the outset, I’m not a doctor. So I went looking for an authoritative definition of PTSD and found the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Here’s what it says (emphasis added):

PTSD Chart

The diagnostic criteria for the manual’s next edition identify the trigger to PTSD as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. The exposure must result from one or more of the following scenarios, in which the individual:

  •  directly experiences the traumatic event;
  •  witnesses the traumatic event in person;
  •  learns that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend (with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental); or
  •  experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event (not through media, pictures, television or movies unless work-related).

It takes some bigtime mental gymnastics to try and make PTSD stretch from the authoritative description shown above to the situations involving Hensley and Weiszmiller, mainly because the “T” in “PTSD” stands for “trauma,” it doesn’t stand for “talking.” Some exceptions apply, but no physical trauma involved = no PTSD.  What these two individuals claimed to have experienced (and it’s important to note that we have no way of knowing if their claims are even real) may have been “dramatic,” but they are not “traumatic.” Therefore, there can be no legitimate diagnosis of PTSD.

Why all the claims of PTSD from people who clearly don’t have it? Well, PTSD has become the latest celebrity affliction; anyone who is anyone has PTSD these days. It also nests neatly within the current culture of victimization exemplified by things like “trigger warnings” and “affluenza” that is ruining American society. Moreover, PTSD has become the latest political third rail; as we saw in the aftermath of the Melody Hensley article, people who question the (il)logic of specious PTSD claims are marginalized, shouted down, or told “check your privilege.”

Look, we don’t have a problem with people being upset that they are attacked online. We think that the military discharge appeals process is there for a reason, and if you can get your discharge upgraded to Honorable, good on you. But we do have a huge problem with people claiming PTSD in circumstances where it clearly isn’t warranted, particularly when it is used to excuse an individual’s poor life choices, deflect criticism, generate sympathy, or garner unwarranted benefits. And we also believe that putting people on an unimpeachable pedestal because they have (or at least claim to have) PTSD doesn’t do anyone any good.

bsflagSo, I’m throwing the BS flag. I don’t buy it for a second that someone can legitimately get PTSD for getting called names in basic training or by getting pushed around in cyberspace by Internet tough guys. I think there are conditions that can develop from such treatment: anxiety… depression… adjustment disorders… but these don’t carry the street cred—or the dollar signs—of PTSD. That’s why so many people want to claim PTSD when they simply don’t have it.

Sorry Melody Hensley, Lisa Weiszmiller, and everyone else like you: when it comes to PTSD, your “drama” is not “trauma.” You don’t have PTSD.




  1. leftoftheboom

    June 25, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Careful, I think you created a new diagnoses, Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome, PDSD. I think Leonardo Di Caprio has it because he can’t win an Oscar.

    I do have to point out something, Trauma, does not have to mean the physical happened to you and it does not have to mean physical at all. Severe emotional and verbal abuse is traumatic without introducing physical into the situation.

    Do I believe those two nitwits have PTSD? I don’t have special letters after my name, and S.O.B. don’t count, so I don’t know.

    The increasing challenge of situations like this is that people who don’t want the label, because of the fallout when someone creates a frivolous argument, will not seek help when they need it because they do not want to be guilty by association. The second problem, is that until someone in the mental health community cries bullshit, the supposed PDSD will still get PTSD treatment because either the doc wants a paycheck, does not want to be wrong, is just checking the block, or cannot tell in the first place.

    Until there is a blood test to give a positive or negative, with a clear delineation of the results, it will all be guess work based on symptoms that can be faked if you know enough.

    There have been several men with beards who have stated they have PTSD, confirmed by professionals, because of the people they had to kill on the battlefield. They inflicted the trauma, not received it. And they are haunted by the very superiority that their skills and training gave them. I am not going to doubt them because not only do I respect them;I don’t want them coming after me.

    We have to walk a very thin line when dealing with PTSD. I was never diagnosed with PTSD. I was, correctly IMO, diagnosed with grief. It still hurt like hell and I still had flashbacks but it was not a permanent rewire of my brain. We cannot get into the habit of challenging claims from people we do not respect while blithely accepting claims from people we do respect.

    If we are going to get help to those who are scared to ask for it, we have to be very careful of calling people out. These two individuals make it easy to call them out, but that is with research and evidence with an honest intent for the truth, which Ranger Up tries to obtain and stay close to. But we need to be very careful when it is not so clear cut and also recognize that others, who have a different agenda, will be less scrupulous when presenting information on both sides of the issue.

    • RU Rob

      June 25, 2014 at 8:15 am

      I need to find a like button for comments because I would click the fuck out of it for this LOTB!

  2. Sabrina

    June 25, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Great reply LOTB!!!
    Havoc13 has some really good points, as do you. PTSD, being a psychological condition will most likely never have a cut and dried diagnosis. What may set off PTSD in me (multiple car accidents in 6 weeks that were through no fault of my own) may not bother the next person at all.
    And as LOTB said, we have to be careful and really research the ones that we need to call out – because it does hold those that need legitimate help back when someone that seems to be genuinely impaired it proved to be a jerk.
    I admire RU and Rhinoden for the research that they do on the articles that they write. Thanks for this article, and the rebuttal LOTB!

  3. hatepeople

    June 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Having been diagnosed for having been blown up and having had to shoot people by very capable providers, I can tell you with out a doubt that those are two different diagnoses. One suffers from PTSD obvously from being blown up, but after certain incidents or continually killing enemy combatants does not PTSD create. It leaves one generally with symptoms that PTSD may share, but it is probably not PTSD.
    Furthermore, there are clear lines that define mental health, that is what the DSM is for. It’s not much different than doctors trying to diagnose internal medical issues that are difficult to be seen via radiographs or other tests. As much as people don’t view it as such, it is a science but on the other hand there are bad “scientists” misdiagnosing people.
    I guess my point is, these people, and the providers, need to be called out. Calling these people out isn’t gonna bother me because I know I actually am a part of a small percent of the military that served in an infantry MOS. I know what I am going through and I know they are full of shit, and so do the rest of the people in this field.
    People don’t claim PTSD not because of incidents like this. They don’t claim it because of the stigma that it brings. They don’t claim it because it’s a career ender in the military. They don’t claim it because they’re afraid one day they wont be able to buy a gun anymore. They’re are a number of reasons. This isn’t one. I think I enjoy seeing some one call these people out and I hope they get fucked up. We don’t need to do it with reckless abandon, but fuck people. Fuck me and this society man, quit treating these assholes with kid gloves.

  4. Ben

    June 25, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve got to kind of disagree here Nick. Your summary of that example with that soldier who was discharged was extremely different from what I gathered from other sources. The way you presented it was very inaccurate and disingenuous – it takes away from your argument when you can’t address it in full.

    • leftoftheboom

      June 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      I read this article on Military.com. and a few other sites and they all say much the same thing. I am not sure how you are characterizing the article as “inaccurate and disingenuous”. This woman states she was being threatened with prison and she pulled out the PTSD card. She did not have PTSD until it benefitted her. She does not claim to have been diagnosed until she was going to prison and now she wants disability and benefits. These are words attributed to her in the article from military.com which was referenced.

      “I asked, ‘What if I’m a veteran?” she said, adding that the simple question prompted Oklahoma County prosecutors and defense attorneys to steer her into a veterans diversion program that has helped her turn her life around.
      “Divine intervention in the guise of David Prater,” she calls it now. “Our district attorney has a soft spot for veterans.”

      She admits in that statement to playing on the sympathy of the district attorney because she claimed veteran status. I am not sure how anyone can read that statement and find any other meaning to it. It was not a lifeline she finally found, it was an excuse she finally found use for.

      Now, the Army, the military, was a tiny bit different during the time that she went to training. And regardless of the changes for today, the rules at the time were specific, enforced and I don’t recall any drill sergeant of mine being anything but a sadist and I was a few years later for basic.

      This case is where the fine line comes into question because when I read the article here, I find and interpretation of the other article and I find no dispute with it. You claim it is not accurate, based on what? Every article I read about it was her crowing about the discharge being changed and running for the VA to get some money. She has not stated she was not gay in 1979 when she was discharged. She has not stated she had PTSD prior to standing before a 2012 prison sentence. She has stated the drills sergeants were barbaric, I find that accurate, and she said she was a drug addict and meth was her latest drug of choice. She mentions psychological problems, well most drug addicts do have a psychological problem, which is why they are doing drugs or it is an effect of the drug abuse.

      She was a lesbian in a time when it was very difficult for anyone in this country to be identified as such. However far we may have come on equality, the late 79’s was not a welcoming time. Reading the statement about her all military family and not rocking the boat, my opinion is that someone got found out and had no clue what to do about it. I know that she was asked about her sexual orientation because it was 1978 and they could ask. Therefore in order to enter the military, her first action was to lie directly or by omission. She wanted to become a military police officer while at the same time willfully violating military policy. It does not matter if the policy was wrong at the time, it was legal and it was policy and she damn well knew it.

      Her entire reason for having PTSD means as much to me as it did to me, she got out of jail time, free drug treatment, and the possibility of a VA disability check.

      If you believe you have found a different interpretation than that, feel free to explain it. Because while you might be willing to defend her actions, there may well be veterans, with problems incurred during war or otherwise, who will refuse to seek treatment because they don’t want to be associated with a label that people like Weiszmiller run to for protection from the consequences of their own actions, because to be blunt, they don’t want to claim something that they need, because posers claim it to get out of trouble.

  5. JoeC

    June 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    PTSD is becoming for adults what ADD, ADHD and autism have become for kids. It’s a shelter for responsibility. When I look back at the kids I went to school with, I think we had one kid in my class (there were only 26 of us) that legitimately had a problem. Today, half of the class would be diagnosed with an alphabet disorder. Back then, we cured them of it through violence. They either got paddled by the teacher for being stupid or got beat up at recess because they were stupid. Either way, problem solved. I saw a TV commercial the other day that said 1 in 80 kids today are diagnosed with autism, up from 1 in 160 a few years ago and up from 1 in thousands a few decades ago. Are there really more kids with autism? Or are we simply adding forms of autism to accommodate more people? In many cases these are simply excuses for bad behavior due to failed parenting. The same thing is happening with PTSD in the adult world. Can’t cope with life? Blame PTSD. Stole something you didn’t want to work for? Blame PTSD. Hit somebody with a bat because didn’t believe your BS? Blame PTSD. The single biggest problem with PTSD is that per the official PTSD guidelines it is not able to be questioned once claimed. In other words, if you think you have it you have it and there is no clinical way to prove otherwise.

  6. Stark

    June 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    The annoying thing is that Hensley wasn’t really anybody outside of the social justice warrior corner of the internet before all this happened- this gave her real pretend internet fame all over the web. You have to understand this about the social justice warriors- they really think that they are oppressed when they hear a differing point of view. They really do think that nobody should be allowed to voice disagreement with any of their positions. You find this out pretty quickly if you disagree with them on any of the boards that they run. The end result is an ideological echo chamber where- in the eyes of that community- you gain credibility by pushing things further and further to the extremes. The results are found in some of their proposals that are so far out there that they are impossible to satirize.

  7. Nukeum

    June 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I have fought for years to avoid the diagnosis of PTSD, event o the point of lying to myself and my psychiatrists, I didn’t want the stigma associated with the diagnosis, I didn’t want any of the backlash tied to it, I was perfectly happy keeping it locked away and never talking about it to anyone, I admit loud car’s, Backfires, Sitting in places with people behind me all make me extremely nervous and jumpy, i sit alone and hear loud thunderous explosions, to the point where i see them as well. but I don’t want the diagnosis. I refuse to be labeled i don’t want the discrimination that many veterans face over it, i don’t want the benefits for it (the VA can keep their money for that) i just want to deal with it in my own way, I hide it from everyone else by boxing it up. I thoroughly enjoyed your Chart, thanks for the insightful article and the research you put into it, the 2 that claimed PTSD and cried wolf should be called out and made to see what it is really like to live in a personal hell.

  8. Bravo 06

    July 1, 2014 at 8:38 am

    LOTB great job with your opening statement. I have PTS and I don’t believe in the D on the end. (Army 11B) I work with veterans with PTS and other severe life changing issues going on in there lives. Most veterans I talk to do not even want to talk about there PTS. It was not till I was taught more about how it was ok to talk to your buddy about some crazy shit that happened that I opened up about mine. But it makes me so sick to see some of these people stealing benefits from veterans that need them. (I had a bad blister in basic ) ARFKM!!!!! This happens daily and is part of the reason for the back log. But I would be rimiest if I did not say if you need help with any type of mental health issues, either expected PTS or other possible issues please talk to someone. I never talked to anyone in my unit until after I ets’ed about some of the craziness. But it does not go away on its own. 22 Veterans a day is 22 to many!!! Gods Speed to happiness and fulfillment.

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