Imagine living under the threat of the most horrific situation you’ve ever experienced in your life popping up in your brain at any given moment. This is the reality of someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition that affects more than 7 million American adults in a given year.
While many of them are veterans or members of the military, many more are not.
But you wouldn’t know it from a Twitter exchange last week between Lady Gaga, who recently revealed her PTSD diagnosis, and former CNN personality Piers Morgan. Morgan accused the singer of inventing her diagnosis “for attention” and asserted that only people in the military can have PTSD.
It’s important to emphasize that his statements are not at all supported by factual evidence: PTSD is not just a military problem.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines the condition as a “disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” It can occur at any age and women are more likely to experience the disorder than men.
While many members of the military do experience PTSD because of their service and what they see in combat, the disorder can also be triggered by any number of events. This includes rape, sexual assault, childhood trauma, abuse or being involved in a violent crime, just to name a few. PTSD can also develop as a result of being adjacent to a traumatic situation.
“Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event,” the NIMH states. “Some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD.”
In addition to being wrong, Morgan’s outburst is dangerous: Claiming someone’s psychological disorder is really only a vehicle for attention alienates people with mental health conditions. And research suggests that can prevent them from seeking treatment.
It also clearly shows we need better education about mental health conditions, which affect 1 in 5 Americans. Learning about symptoms of mental illness can help people who don’t have one understand them more, Mary Giliberti, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, previously told HuffPost. Experts also say celebrities opening up about their own experiences helps erase some of the stigma and gives mental health a positive, public stage.
Both Gaga and Morgan, who currently writes a column for the Daily Mail, eventually made an arrangement for an interview to discuss the effects of PTSD. In a statement to The Huffington Post, Morgan said he had no further comment about the pair’s exchange over social media, but will expand on his statements when he holds the interview. His team has yet to respond about where it will be posted or broadcast.
Morgan concluded the brief Twitter feud by discussing the upcoming sit-down with Gaga, telling her, “If you’re big enough to do this, I’m big enough to play fair too.”
We certainly hope so.