Humans Are Split Specimens

  1. The Dream About Evidence
  2. The DSM in Five Versions
  3. Critique of the DSM
  4. Humans Are Split Specimens
  5. Soldiers with PTSD
  6. What Now?

This is blog entry four of a series of six. You can access the other blog entries by clicking their titles above.

The diagnosis PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was introduced thirty-five years ago by the people who edited the DSM-III. If the primary ambition of the editors was to establish a more scientific footing for the manual, there were nonetheless concurrent economic and moral issues to deal with. Among the suffering soldiers returning from the war in Vietnam, some did not fit any of the existing diagnostic categories. As a result, they were unable to obtain the medical certificates necessary to receive financial and therapeutic help. Since the editors of the DSM-III wanted to help the soldiers, they decided to create a new diagnosis. The new diagnosis—PTSD—was specifically tailored to the symptoms and needs of the soldiers.

There are evident similarities between the situation just described in the US leading up to the publication of the DSM-III in 1980 and the situation in Denmark in 2013 described in “The Dream About Evidence,” i.e., the first blog entry of this series. On the one hand, there is a wish to help traumatized soldiers. On the other, the expectation that the wish will lead to political decisions that are scientifically well-founded—evidence-based, as the term today goes.

Now, there is nothing wrong with maintaining the importance of scientificity while taking into account more subject-oriented agenda. On the contrary, it is a way, at least implicitly, of recognizing that humans are split specimens and that their split is best paid heed to and not ignored. No, the problem is acting as if evidence were synonymous with science.

The tendency to do just that is even worse today than it was at the time of the inception of the PTSD diagnosis. Today, we see the diagnosis treated as an object suitable for evidence-based science, also in view of solving problems that are subject-oriented. The events that have unfolded since the passing of the new PTSD law in Denmark offer a graphic illustration of the problem.

Next: Soldiers with PTSD. You  can access the next blog entry by clicking here.