Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder vs. Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (2023)

Some people believe that changing the name of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to post traumatic stress injury (PTSI) could reduce the stigma surrounding this condition.

Concerns of a societal stigma attached topost-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), and mental health conditions in general, is not a new phenomenon. However, what is new is the approach to reduce this stigma.

Fearing that people with PTSD may avoid seeking help because of stigma, a change in the disorder’s name and understanding have been proposed. The alternative name post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) has gained popularity and, despite not yet being an accepted medical diagnosis, many people have begun using this term.

To understand both sides of thePTSD vs. PTSIdebate, thedifferences between PTSD and PTSImust be explored.

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Article at a Glance:

  • A change to the name of PTSD has been proposed, mainly out of fear that people — especially veterans — may avoid seeking treatment due to stigma
  • PTSD is a psychiatric disorder which occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event
  • The proposed name, PTSI, hopes to change the perception of this condition from a psychiatric disorder to a biological trauma that affects the nervous system
  • People who want the name changed believe the word disorder discourages veterans from seeking treatment
  • People who want the name to remain the same believe this change would not do anything to change the stigma and that the condition needs to be approached differently, especially by the military

What Is PTSI?

TheAmerican Psychiatric Associationdefines PTSD as “A psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.”

With this definition in mind,what is PTSI? In essence,PTSIrefers to the same set of symptoms. The main difference is the conceptualization of what has caused these symptoms. While PTSD refers to a psychiatric disorder, thePTSI definitionprovided by theGlobal PTSI Foundationrefers to a biological injury.

This organizationhas stated that PTSI is a biological trauma citing the physical changes which occur in the nervous system in people with this condition. While mental health experts have long acknowledged and understood the physical changes associated with PTSD, some argue that changing the name would change peoples’ perception of the condition.

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Who Is Affected by PTSD?

While research is not yet available based on the proposed term PTSI, research into PTSD and PTSD statistics can begin to give an understanding of whose diagnoses may be affected by this name change.

PTSD in the General American Population

PTSD in Children and Teens

Among young people,PTSD in childrenand teens may occur following a trauma, just as it would develop in an adult.

Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress

Frequently, PTSD is most commonly associated withveterans returning from war, but there are many otherPTSD causes. For example,PTSDcaused bysexual abuseor assault andPTSDcaused bydomestic violenceare both commonly occurring traumatic events.

Other examples of traumatic events which may lead to PTSD include:

  • Assault
  • Car accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Exposure to acts of terrorism
  • Incarceration

This condition is not limited to people who experience trauma first-hand. Those who witness an event like these may develop PTSD as well. In some cases,close friends and family membersof a person who has experienced a traumatic event will develop PTSD.

Are you or a loved one dealing with a life-altering trauma and are struggling to cope? ContactMental Health Americaat 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find help today.

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PTSI in the Military

The high rate ofPTSD in veteranssparked the initial research into this condition. Once referred to as “shell shock,”PTSDwas observed inwar veteransupon return home. While once considered a sign of weakness, the understanding ofPTSDin themilitaryhas grown tremendously.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairsrecognizes the challenges that veterans face who develop PTSD. Calls to change the name of this condition have sprung largely from veterans who make up a large portion of the total affected individuals. People in favor of the name change believe that having the word disorder in the name of this condition may prevent people — especially veterans — from seeking help, due to societal stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

Renaming PTSD as PTSI: Possible Impact

Both positive and negative potential impacts of changing the name of PTSD toPTSIhave been noted. The main argument for the name change has focused around allegedPTSD stigma.

While the former Army Vice Chief of Staff,Peter Chiarelli, statesthat he feels the word “disorder” is what inhibits veterans from seeking treatment, others have argued that changing the name without making any other modifications would not do anything to change the stigma.Dr. Matthew Friedman, Senior Advisor atthe National Center for PTSD, has challenged Chiarelli, citing how the military handles traumatized soldiers as the greatest contributor to PTSD stigma.

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Concerns About PTSD and the Purple Heart

One controversy surrounding the military’s approach has to do withPTSD andthePurple Heart, which is a U.S. military decoration awarded to people who are wounded or killed in the line of duty.

At this time, veterans diagnosed with PTSD are not eligible to obtain the Purple Heart. Some people believe that changing the name would allow veterans affected by this condition to receive the Purple Heart while others suggest the rule should be changed, not the condition’s name.

Canada’s Approach to PTSD

In Canada, the military approach to PTSD is to reduce the stigma around the condition. The Canadian military uses the term Operational Stress Injury to refer to a range of effects of the psychological trauma of warfare, including PTSD. Individuals with this diagnosis can receive the Canadian equivalent to the Purple Heart.

People who are opposed to changing the condition’s name state that Canada’s approach gives the best of both worlds: working to reduce stigma for military veterans without changing the diagnosis. The people who argue that the name should remain the same believe that changing the name would create undue confusion.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni

Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more

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Medically Reviewed By – Denise-Marie Griswold, LCAS

Denise-Marie Griswold is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist. She earned her Master's Degree in Substance Abuse and Clinical Counseling from East Carolina University in 2014. Read more

What Is PTSD? Symptoms, Signs & Treatment related topics:


PTSD Statistics and Facts to know in 20248 Common PTSD Myths in 2024How to Help a Friend with PTSDVeterans and PTSDWhat Is C-PTSD?Treatment for PTSD with Co-Occurring Substance Use DisordersPTSD NightmaresIs There a Cure for PTSD?The History of PTSD

All Related Topics


Keynan, Irit; Keynan, Jackob. “War Trauma, Politics of Recognition and Purple Heart: PTSD or PTSI?” ResearchGate, September 2016. Accessed May 27, 2019.

Jaffe, Greg. “New Name for PTSD could mean less stigma.” The Washington Post, May 5, 2012. Accessed May 27, 2019.

National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM). “Leading Psychiatric Doctor Claims Re-lab[…]ntended Consequences.’” (n.d.) Accessed May 27, 2019.

Global Post Traumatic Stress Injury Foundation. “PTSD vs. PTSI.” Accessed May 27, 2019.

American Psychiatric Association. “What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?” January 2017. Accessed May 27, 2019.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Combat Exposure.” (n.d.) Accessed May 27, 2019.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “How Common is PTSD?” (n.d.) Accessed May 27, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

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