PTSD is a medical diagnosis, a condition that more than one therapist has told me I don’t have. But they have all agreed that I’ve been through significant trauma and have suffered chronic stress over the past decade, which has taken its toll. A few years ago, when I first began hearing about a trauma response called “moral injury,” I knew I had landed on the description I had been looking for to explain some of what had happened to my family and me.
Diagnosing Moral Injury
The phrase “moral injury” was first coined in the 1990s by medical practitioners who were treating veterans for symptoms that didn’t fit the PTSD diagnosis. Over time, moral injury has come to be used to describe reactions to domestic, spiritual, and sexual abuse or assault as well as systemic racism and gang violence. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines it like this:
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