Post-traumatic embitterment disorder

The American Psychiatric Association is considering labeling bitterness as a mental illness:

Having floated “Apathy Disorder” as a trial balloon, to see if it might garner enough support for inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the world’s diagnostic bible of mental illnesses, the organization has generated untold amounts of publicity and incredulity this week by debating at its convention whether bitterness should become a bona fide mental disorder.

Bitterness is “so common and so deeply destructive,” writes Shari Roan at the Los Angeles Times, “that some psychiatrists are urging it be identified as a mental illness under the name post-traumatic embitterment disorder.” “The disorder is modeled after post-traumatic stress disorder,” she continues, “because it too is a response to a trauma that endures. People with PTSD are left fearful and anxious. Embittered people are left seething for revenge.”

This particular post on the Psychology Today website rejects the idea, saying that bitterness is justified (wait for it) by the Bush administration. But depression is also justified sometimes. What the APA wants to do, apparently, is medicalize moral and spiritual struggles. I’m curious what the treatment for post-traumatic embitterment disorder would be. How will psychiatrists get bitter people to forgive those who trespassed against them? Medication?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://theupwardcall.blogspot.com Kim in On

    I’m sure the drug companies would be more than happy to develop an “anti-bitterness” drug. Considering the tendency anyone can have to bitterness, they’d make a fortune.

  • http://theupwardcall.blogspot.com Kim in On

    I’m sure the drug companies would be more than happy to develop an “anti-bitterness” drug. Considering the tendency anyone can have to bitterness, they’d make a fortune.

  • Carl Vehse

    “This particular article in Psychology Today rejects the idea, saying that bitterness is justified (wait for it) by the Bush administration.”

    It’s deja vu all over again. The Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) has been know for a long time, as first exemplified after the 2000 elections by the BDS poster boy, Algore.

    Since the fall of 2008 BDS has also been known as PDS, as recently displayed by a lunatic talk show host.

  • Carl Vehse

    “This particular article in Psychology Today rejects the idea, saying that bitterness is justified (wait for it) by the Bush administration.”

    It’s deja vu all over again. The Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) has been know for a long time, as first exemplified after the 2000 elections by the BDS poster boy, Algore.

    Since the fall of 2008 BDS has also been known as PDS, as recently displayed by a lunatic talk show host.

  • Rose

    Time for a reprint of Menninger’s “Whatever Became of Sin?” (1973). The word sin has been pulled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. See http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/12/08/whatever-became-of-sin/

  • Rose

    Time for a reprint of Menninger’s “Whatever Became of Sin?” (1973). The word sin has been pulled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. See http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/12/08/whatever-became-of-sin/

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Or how about Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish”?

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Or how about Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish”?

  • fws

    “What the APA wants to do, apparently, is medicalize moral and spiritual struggles.”

    I suppose that this is the underlying reason for why some christians feel the need to seek out a “christian” therapist yet do not feel the same need to seek out a christian medical doctor. interesting…

  • fws

    “What the APA wants to do, apparently, is medicalize moral and spiritual struggles.”

    I suppose that this is the underlying reason for why some christians feel the need to seek out a “christian” therapist yet do not feel the same need to seek out a christian medical doctor. interesting…

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I won’t argue the post at PsychologyToday.com is goofy (it is).

    But I do expect a media critic to be able to tell the difference between an “article in Psychology Today” and a blog posting on the PsychologyToday.com Web site. Clearly, the former has just a bit more weight behind it.

    Or would it have been accurate, in this blog’s old days, to have declared that World Magazine had an article on Veith’s new granddaughter?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I won’t argue the post at PsychologyToday.com is goofy (it is).

    But I do expect a media critic to be able to tell the difference between an “article in Psychology Today” and a blog posting on the PsychologyToday.com Web site. Clearly, the former has just a bit more weight behind it.

    Or would it have been accurate, in this blog’s old days, to have declared that World Magazine had an article on Veith’s new granddaughter?

  • Jeanne

    I have PTSD, so does my husband who was a combat solider in Vietnam. The cure for this and for apathy is Jesus Christ. Two years ago, I would not have believed this. Now, I believe it with all my heart.

  • Jeanne

    I have PTSD, so does my husband who was a combat solider in Vietnam. The cure for this and for apathy is Jesus Christ. Two years ago, I would not have believed this. Now, I believe it with all my heart.

  • Leif

    I imagine treatment would break down in one of three ways (all depending on who you see and whether or not you say “I want the drugs!”).

    1. Talk therapy
    2. Talk + drugs
    3. Drugs, no talk

    Spiritual/moral issues amongst psychologists are handled in a wide variety of manner–from complete dismissal to acceptance and learning how to “cope”. So I imagine it still all comes down to whether or not you get/find a Doctor who’s cool with trying what you want to do.

    fws(@5)

    I think the tendency for Christians to get a Christian psychologist rather than a Christian medical doctor is simply because they are perceived as having a better understanding, if not intimate, knowledge of the milieu. Not that their actions are completely justified but, at the same time, one usually doesn’t have to explain their existential issues and how it correlates with their faith to someone who is about to remove a tumor or prescribe an antibiotic–so the example is much like comparing apples and oranges.

  • Leif

    I imagine treatment would break down in one of three ways (all depending on who you see and whether or not you say “I want the drugs!”).

    1. Talk therapy
    2. Talk + drugs
    3. Drugs, no talk

    Spiritual/moral issues amongst psychologists are handled in a wide variety of manner–from complete dismissal to acceptance and learning how to “cope”. So I imagine it still all comes down to whether or not you get/find a Doctor who’s cool with trying what you want to do.

    fws(@5)

    I think the tendency for Christians to get a Christian psychologist rather than a Christian medical doctor is simply because they are perceived as having a better understanding, if not intimate, knowledge of the milieu. Not that their actions are completely justified but, at the same time, one usually doesn’t have to explain their existential issues and how it correlates with their faith to someone who is about to remove a tumor or prescribe an antibiotic–so the example is much like comparing apples and oranges.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “What the APA wants to do, apparently, is medicalize moral and spiritual struggles.”

    I don’t see it this way. I have been leading an adult Sunday School class on The Gospel According to Luke. I like the fact that one of the evangelists was a medical doctor. One of my resources is the book The Medical Language of St. Luke by William Kirk Hobart (available for free at GoogleBooks). It is clear that Luke writes of Jesus curing people of problems that were considered medical even in ancient times. It is also interesting that Jesus will treat threats to humanity from varied sources with the same treatment. He rebukes a fever, a storm, and demons interchangeably. I don’t think the fact that these aspects of the fall are all treated by Jesus changes their category and makes them “spritual.”

    I have no problem believing Jesus can cure bitterness. But I could also see this problem having a medical side to it, even if the original cause was not medical. We do know that there are permanent changes in the brain that people may not have the resources to deal with themselves. It could even be the case that some of the people in question HAVE forgiven their transgressors only to find the seething does not stop. I think that Romans chapter seven allows us to conceive of this and not blame the person.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “What the APA wants to do, apparently, is medicalize moral and spiritual struggles.”

    I don’t see it this way. I have been leading an adult Sunday School class on The Gospel According to Luke. I like the fact that one of the evangelists was a medical doctor. One of my resources is the book The Medical Language of St. Luke by William Kirk Hobart (available for free at GoogleBooks). It is clear that Luke writes of Jesus curing people of problems that were considered medical even in ancient times. It is also interesting that Jesus will treat threats to humanity from varied sources with the same treatment. He rebukes a fever, a storm, and demons interchangeably. I don’t think the fact that these aspects of the fall are all treated by Jesus changes their category and makes them “spritual.”

    I have no problem believing Jesus can cure bitterness. But I could also see this problem having a medical side to it, even if the original cause was not medical. We do know that there are permanent changes in the brain that people may not have the resources to deal with themselves. It could even be the case that some of the people in question HAVE forgiven their transgressors only to find the seething does not stop. I think that Romans chapter seven allows us to conceive of this and not blame the person.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    OK, tODD, I changed it.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    OK, tODD, I changed it.

  • Efrem

    More reason to label psychiatrists quacks. These were the same guys who changed their mind about labeling homosexuality a mental illness 35 years ago.

  • Efrem

    More reason to label psychiatrists quacks. These were the same guys who changed their mind about labeling homosexuality a mental illness 35 years ago.

  • Trey

    The whole “wait for it” line was classic. It gave me something to laugh about all day. When I saw that I knew exactly what was coming: BUSH is to blame for the ills of the world.

  • Trey

    The whole “wait for it” line was classic. It gave me something to laugh about all day. When I saw that I knew exactly what was coming: BUSH is to blame for the ills of the world.

  • Kim

    PTED and PTSD are two different beasts. PTED is the result of a negative event in one’s life that occurs. It will usually happen to anyone at anytime, ie…loss of job, loss of a loved one… whereas the events can cause a disrubtion in the normal realm of life, they are not life threatening. PTSD is the result of a life threatining event done to an individual…ie combat…rape…a diagnosis of terminal cancer. These events can all “trigger” PTSD. So, the question becomes “where is the sin?” In PTED, the sin is within the person, if they allow the embitterment to control their lives and their interaction with society. Embitterment means that the individual has “curled in” on themselves. The transgressor to forgive is themselves, not the root of the embitterment (loss of whatever). With the PTSD, the sin was done against the individual, there the transgressor needs to be forgiven, but the physical, emotional, mental aspects of PTSD remains. In both cases medication can be of help to calm the mind so that the individual can be brought to a place of “calm” or a “place of beginning”. At that point a discussion of Christ and his love can be started. Understand that at any time, a “trigger” can occur leaving everyone back at the beginning. Even while on medication, as the body assimilates the medicine and more is needed to counteract the symptoms. Medication is never used to treat the “problem”, but to treat the symptoms. By giving PTED a nod from the the psychiatric realm, gives it a name for the symptoms being experienced and a course of action to follow. Sometimes having a “name” to a problem is soothing in and of itself.

  • Kim

    PTED and PTSD are two different beasts. PTED is the result of a negative event in one’s life that occurs. It will usually happen to anyone at anytime, ie…loss of job, loss of a loved one… whereas the events can cause a disrubtion in the normal realm of life, they are not life threatening. PTSD is the result of a life threatining event done to an individual…ie combat…rape…a diagnosis of terminal cancer. These events can all “trigger” PTSD. So, the question becomes “where is the sin?” In PTED, the sin is within the person, if they allow the embitterment to control their lives and their interaction with society. Embitterment means that the individual has “curled in” on themselves. The transgressor to forgive is themselves, not the root of the embitterment (loss of whatever). With the PTSD, the sin was done against the individual, there the transgressor needs to be forgiven, but the physical, emotional, mental aspects of PTSD remains. In both cases medication can be of help to calm the mind so that the individual can be brought to a place of “calm” or a “place of beginning”. At that point a discussion of Christ and his love can be started. Understand that at any time, a “trigger” can occur leaving everyone back at the beginning. Even while on medication, as the body assimilates the medicine and more is needed to counteract the symptoms. Medication is never used to treat the “problem”, but to treat the symptoms. By giving PTED a nod from the the psychiatric realm, gives it a name for the symptoms being experienced and a course of action to follow. Sometimes having a “name” to a problem is soothing in and of itself.

  • Leif

    Efrem I forgot about the whole labeling/de-labeling of homosexuality. Seems to fit right in with the whole “What the APA wants to do, apparently, is medicalize moral and spiritual struggles” thing.

    Trey said “BUSH is to blame for the ills of the world.”

    It’s true! I wouldn’t have believed it myself but then he showed up at my door, strangled my dog, and caused a storm to appear that flooded my basement. So…

  • Leif

    Efrem I forgot about the whole labeling/de-labeling of homosexuality. Seems to fit right in with the whole “What the APA wants to do, apparently, is medicalize moral and spiritual struggles” thing.

    Trey said “BUSH is to blame for the ills of the world.”

    It’s true! I wouldn’t have believed it myself but then he showed up at my door, strangled my dog, and caused a storm to appear that flooded my basement. So…

  • Broken

    I believe this is so true. I had the perfect life, the powerful husband, the two beautiful daughters, the great career and the huge house with extras. I thought I was lucky to have “it all”. Then in one day it was shattered. My husband came home and told me that he has been having an affair for the past 1 1/2 and now the woman was 5 months pregnant. He said it did not mean anything to him and it was just sex. I thought it could all work out. We had the years together and had built a life which I loved and thought he did. In the months to follow, I thought he would realize his mistake; however, looking back he planned the entire separation. I think he is narcissistic. He has me the wife, his mistress, and now a new girlfriend and brags about it. He says freely he will never get married again but throws in my face that he will marry her and have a great life. I am wife number 2. He told me he did not love his first wife but felt he had to marry her. I’m sure he is telling the same story now only with me.

    His mom says, “oh he has done this before”. Well thank you for telling me after all of those years.

    My life has been awful since last year. I don’t want to be me. This disorder explains how I feel. I feel bitter and like a victim. She is older and definitely uglier than I am. He evens says she is ugly but had a nice body pre-baby. He told me I was lucky that he gave me two children.

    This man walked around telling the world days before our separation that I was beautiful, successful and that he would have NOT obtained a degree if it was not for me. I found him broke, jobless, and carless. Now, he is educated, with car, great job, money, and a lot of power.

    Yes, I feel played–Helpless, hopeless, victimized, bitter, and definitely want revenge. Now, help me to solve the problem in a rational way. :(

  • Broken

    I believe this is so true. I had the perfect life, the powerful husband, the two beautiful daughters, the great career and the huge house with extras. I thought I was lucky to have “it all”. Then in one day it was shattered. My husband came home and told me that he has been having an affair for the past 1 1/2 and now the woman was 5 months pregnant. He said it did not mean anything to him and it was just sex. I thought it could all work out. We had the years together and had built a life which I loved and thought he did. In the months to follow, I thought he would realize his mistake; however, looking back he planned the entire separation. I think he is narcissistic. He has me the wife, his mistress, and now a new girlfriend and brags about it. He says freely he will never get married again but throws in my face that he will marry her and have a great life. I am wife number 2. He told me he did not love his first wife but felt he had to marry her. I’m sure he is telling the same story now only with me.

    His mom says, “oh he has done this before”. Well thank you for telling me after all of those years.

    My life has been awful since last year. I don’t want to be me. This disorder explains how I feel. I feel bitter and like a victim. She is older and definitely uglier than I am. He evens says she is ugly but had a nice body pre-baby. He told me I was lucky that he gave me two children.

    This man walked around telling the world days before our separation that I was beautiful, successful and that he would have NOT obtained a degree if it was not for me. I found him broke, jobless, and carless. Now, he is educated, with car, great job, money, and a lot of power.

    Yes, I feel played–Helpless, hopeless, victimized, bitter, and definitely want revenge. Now, help me to solve the problem in a rational way. :(


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