PTSD: Will a name change, change perceptions?

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DENVER — Thousands of service members come home from war suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.  But are they skipping treatment because of the negative stigma over that name?

That’s what the American Psychiatric Association discussed Monday in Philadelphia.  They’re debating changing the name of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Injury.  They’re afraid the word “disorder” implies a long-term mental illness, and that might keep soldiers from getting the help they need.

“The word ‘disorder’ has a connotation among members of the public that I think isn’t helpful to veterans,” Dr. Brian Russell, a psychologist, said.  “We don’t want the public thinking everybody who comes back from military service has some kind of a mental disorder. We don’t want the public certainly to be reluctant to hire a veteran or to date a veteran or anything.”

Combat-related PTSD, which has also been called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue,” refers to the intense symptoms soldiers face after experiencing a traumatic event.  As many as one in four deployed soldiers has suffered from it.

One Colorado soldier knows those symptoms all too well.  It nearly tore apart his family, and drove him to the brink of suicide.

Dan Thibodeau came home from Iraq with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The pain started when he was injured in a training accident.  Then an IED (improvised explosive device) blast left him with his brain rattled.

“My body is shot,” Thibodeau told FOX31 Denver.

He now has chronic migraines, memory loss and confusion.  And the toll it’s taken extends far beyond just him.

“It affects not only you because it builds up the frustration inside of you, but you also see it affecting your family,” Thibodeau said.

“There were times when I even packed my bags and left,” his wife, Norma Thibodeau told us.

She says their marriage was in trouble because the Dan who came home from war, just wasn’t the same guy who left.

“He didn`t have that light in him like he used to have before he went,” she said.

Thankfully, Operation TBI Freedom came into their lives.  It’s a statewide program from a local charity called Denver Options, designed to help people with traumatic brain injuries.  They offered Dan and his wife special classes on marriage, parenting, and how to deal with his chronic pain.

Dan says the improvement is noticeable.  And his family?  They once again have hope.

“I`m really hopeful, and I`m so happy to kind of see that light back in him,” Norma said.

To learn more about the classes offered by Operation TBI Freedom, and to apply to be part of the program, click here: