Monday, August 22, 2011

Psychologist Speaks Out Against Vets Who Use PTSD as an Excuse for Criminal Behavior

Psychology Today has an article by Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., with the title "Criminal Behavior Is Not a Symptom of PTSD."

At least once a month, there seems to be a new case in the media depicting a veteran who has been convicted of a serious crime such as drug trafficking, child pornography, theft, rape, and even murder. In many of these cases, a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder is cited by the veteran's attorney as the cause of the behavior.

So, can PTSD cause criminal behavior? Yes and no. There is no doubt that PTSD can cause a person to make bad choices that lead to antisocial behaviors. Increased use of alcohol or drugs can lead to driving while intoxicated, domestic violence, and petty theft to support their drug or alcohol use. Increased physiological arousal, which causes the service member to always be on-guard, can lead to violent behavior that is out of proportion to a perceived threat. There are even cases in which combat veterans with PTSD have been found not guilty of murder when they were put in a situation, which reminded them of a previous stressful combat experience, and they felt they were defending themselves against an enemy combatant....

At this point, some of you may be considering my views as unsympathetic or even cynical. This is not the case. I have a great deal of sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of veterans with PTSD, some of which have found themselves in trouble with the law. My issue is with the numerous bogus claims by individuals who insist that PTSD caused them to download child pornography, sexually assault a female after a night at the bar, or rob a convenience store. In my opinion, it's insulting to those suffering from this disabling condition and feeds the stigma that combat veterans with PTSD are unstable, dangerous, and crazy.

Let's not make PTSD a scapegoat for crime. Instead, let's direct our efforts at better understanding this disorder and improving treatments so that veterans can lead more satisfying and rewarding lives. However, as a student of human behavior I am well aware that people are experts at finding ways to shift responsibility for their actions, particularly those actions that will bring about unwanted consequences.

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