SELF – What Donald Trump Gets So Wrong About PTSD

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Photo: Twitter

Here’s what Trump gets so wrong about PTSD. It’s not about people who “can’t handle it.”

On Monday, Donald Trump talked to a group of retired veterans about the effects of war, and PTSD. Per CNN in a panel discussion, he said, “When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can’t handle it…They see horror stories, they see events you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it.” He inferred that those veterans suffering from PTSD who commit suicide somehow, “can’t handle it,” and in so doing perpetuated an ongoing and common stigma that mental health issues are for the weak.

To better understand the causes and treatment of PTSD as well as what Donald Trump gets so wrong about PTSD, I was pleased to help out with this great piece for SELF.


Licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., tells SELF that it’s not totally understood why some people develop PTSD while others don’t. However, she says, there are risk factors like childhood exposure to trauma, an unsupportive childhood environment, genetic vulnerabilities to anxiety, inadequate coping skills for stress, and poor social support. “When people’s coping resources have been regularly overwhelmed, they tend not to be able to manage the impact of trauma, and are more vulnerable to developing symptoms,” she says.


While difficult, PTSD symptoms may actually be a sign that someone canhandle a trauma. “Remembering it, working it through, and avoiding anything similar are classic ways we all cope with stress,” Clark says. “Intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares may very well represent attempts to process something extraordinary.”


Luckily, there are treatments available, and the most effective of which is immediate debriefing after a trauma to help a person’s ability to cope. “Talking about what has happened in a supportive environment has been shown to be enormously protective in staving off more severe symptoms,” Clark says, adding that talking things through has also been found to be effective once PTSD symptoms surface.


But effective treatment varies from person to person. “Just like everyone’s expression of PTSD is different, so too is everyone’s solution,” Clark says. “Instead of shame and blame, survivors of trauma deserve our compassion and our help to regain their lives and strength.”



Alicia H. Clark, PsyD