The visible effects of combat stress have been chronicled going back to ancient times.
In more recent wars, it has been called “soldier’s heart,” “battle fatigue” and “shell shock.” Whatever the name, centuries of militaries have acknowledged that sometimes the horrors of war can be too much for soldiers to bear.
Today’s active duty personnel face long hours, grueling missions, and extended periods away from loved ones. And when mental and emotional problems strike, there’s no doubting their reality. But no matter where they go for help, in today’s military they are often sent straight to a psychiatrist. And that usually results in a psychiatric label—a “diagnosis” which can’t be verified by any blood test, X-ray or brain scan.
Because there are no tests that can identify anything physically wrong, psychiatrists don’t know what to treat, and because of this, psychiatric treatment is mainly guesswork with very little actual science. But this hasn’t stopped its practitioners from labeling hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform with a mental illness and drugging them with powerful psychotropic drug cocktails.
This has gotten so out of control that the U.S. Pentagon now spends $2 billion a year on mental health alone. And the Veterans Administration’s mental health budget shot up from $3 billion in 2003 to an estimated $7 billion in 2014.
That’s a lot of money to spend on a profession that can’t even find evidence for its “mental disorders” under a microscope.
Psychiatry’s utter lack of science is exemplified in the case of the psychiatric diagnosis “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” or PTSD. When psychiatrists came up with the diagnosis, they took disturbing, yet expected responses to a bad or stressful experience, proclaimed without evidence that it was a “medical disorder,” and cashed in. In 1980, a panel of psychiatrists voted to have it listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), today a 943-page volume also known as the American Psychiatric Association’s “billing bible.” Now able to bill government and private insurance companies to treat PTSD, psychiatrists in ensuing years have been able to make millions—without any idea of what causes it or how to cure it.
Of course, when you don’t know the cause or the cure, treatment can be long-term and very expensive. Between this and the increasing number of veterans being diagnosed with this phantom disease, the PTSD industry has been steadily eating up increasing quantities of government resources. In 2005 alone, 13% of all Veteran Administration mental health costs, or $274 million, were spent on treating PTSD much of which is being siphoned into the rapidly expanding coffers of the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry.
Today, some 80% of vets labeled with PTSD receive psychotropic drugs; 89% of these are given antidepressants, with 34% treated with antipsychotics—drugs so powerful they were intended only for the most seriously disturbed. Since 2001, there have been more than 150 worldwide drug regulatory warnings and studies issued about the dangerous—often lethal effects—of psychotropic drugs such as these.
But psychiatrists don’t only make millions from diagnosing and treating “PTSD”—they also conduct drug research, attempting to chemically dampen unwanted reactions to war. This too is big money—just one branch of the United States military has spent nearly $300 million on PTSD research since 2006.
Part of the rapid expansion of PTSD is due to increasingly lax diagnostic standards. Since the induction of PTSD into psychiatry’s book of mental disorders, definitions of what qualifies to have PTSD have become softer, wider and much more general.
Today, PTSD isn’t just diagnosed in soldiers and veterans for war trauma, but has become a catch-all label for anyone—military or civilian—experiencing an adverse reaction to a distressing event. The result: tens of millions of people with a perfectly normal response to disaster now being diagnosed with a mental disorder.