Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Stigma, and Learned Helplessness

Does the stigmatized individual assume his differentness is known about already or is evident on the spot, or does he assume it is neither known about by those present nor immediately perceivable by them? In the first case one deals with the plight of the discredited, in the second with that of the discreditable. This is an important difference.” Erving Goffman, 1963

I don’t have anything new to add to the thoughts I had when I wrote about PTSD in “Trauma Culture: Who’s a Normal Now?” But, I continue to read about PTSD because as someone with it, I believe the more people like me know, the less we suffer. Having PTSD is something I can talk about and give presentations on now, but when I was a student, I kept it a secret because I was concerned about the perception of others. I can speak to the experience of having a stigma that is discredited (I’m a fat, mixed race woman) but I feel that it is the discreditable whose experiences we understand less so.

Being discreditable is having to manage a secret, one that the bearer knows will change others perceptions the moment it hits air. We also know that if we tell our secret publicly, we risk everything. Having PTSD and doing the work of “passing” and concealing trauma impact physical and mental health but also learning and motivation. I came across one of the best pieces I’ve ever read about learned helplessness last week and it’s an important read for teachers and people in healthcare or social work.

And, here’s something for you from an open source, peer-reviewed journal about “Discredited” versus “Discreditable” identities and how those affect health disparities (mental and physical).