An Army Medic Gives The Most Relatable Explanation Of What PTSD Is Like Using A Horror Movie Scene

March 6, 2016

For most of us who have never been to war, it's hard to understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We know it's a mental health condition and that it's awful, but what does it feel like? Why can't soldiers shake it once they've been home for a while?

An army medic who served in Iraq, and worked through his own issues thanks to a good support system, described PTSD like this...

horror movie PTSD conjuring

It's not so much as the individual thinks they are in a war zone, but you go into a hyper aware battlefield type mindset.

I thought about it for a minute, and the best way I can describe it to somebody without that frame of reference is this scene:

Imagine you just watched the scariest horror movie you have ever seen. I'm talking absolutely terrifying, freak yourself out type movie with the lights down, and the end credits roll. Maybe The Conjuring, that's the one with the claps when nobody is there right? Wow, that was scary! Why did I watch that while I was alone in the house?

But you're a rational person right? No such thing as boogie men right? The movie wasn't REAL. And you damn sure don't think you are in the movie.

Oh, but you forgot, you have to run down to the basement for that thing you needed. Okay, the bulb is burned out down there, but you have a dim flashlight that should have enough juice to let you see you way over to the corner and grab that thing you need.

Wow is it dark down here! I think the thing is in the box in the far corner. As you get over to the corner, the light is really dying fast. Shoot, where is that THING! Are you nervous yet?

And just as the bulb flickers out, you hear the CLAP CLAP.

Now the rational person knows that it was NOT an evil spirit. Ockham's razor and all that. Maybe the movie started again, the house is making noise that sounded like claps, maybe a friend is punking you. Objective you KNOWS this, but objective you is not running the show anymore. You are FREAKED OUT!

Now imagine instead of watching a horror movie, you lived it for a year. You saw real people that you cared about die in terrible ways way more graphic than the MPAA will ever let be shown on the screen. You have been trained and you have molded your brain to be able to move shoot and communicate in response to fear and stress because if you don't, your buddies die. This is who is running the show now.

But wait, you say, I'm not in Iraq anymore. I need to act "normal". But the more you try, the more stress this causes you, trying to re-assert the "real you." And the more stress this causes you, the stronger the "combat side" of your personality becomes. It's a feedback loop of screwed up. That's why PTSD is such a bitch to treat.

Credit: nightmedic

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