‘This Is Not Exactly PTSD‘

There’s a new, small-scale study of people who’ve experienced climate disasters that examines their cognitive impact. I just wanted to pull one thing about how researchers are trying to classify this impact.

However, Mishra and her co-authors believe that these changes in cognition represent a diagnosis that isn’t currently listed in the DSM-5. “This is not exactly PTSD,” she said, “It’s a new kind of trauma.”

For a few years now I’ve had an interest in this sort of “sub-PTSD” kind of trauma, ever since my psychological implosion from a Vocational Rehabilitation job placement after my autism diagnosis. In the wake of that mental health crisis, when I’d made a feeble attempt at a disability filing, the consulting psychologist diagnosed me with adjustment disorder.

Little-known fact: while the DSM-V only really speaks of adjustment disorder as a thing that lasts for around six months past the inciting crisis, technically speaking it comes in both acute and chronic (or persistent) varieties. In the latter, symptoms continue beyond six months, especially if the inciting stressor itself is ongoing.

For all intents and purposes, my therapist and I agree that the ways in which my impairments disable me amount to persistent adjustment disorder stemming from the ongoing stressor. of being autistic in a non-autistic world, both pre- and post-diagnosis. It’s not just about the crash-and-burn of that job placement. That incident simply was the experience of being autistic in a non-autistic world writ emotionally large and right in my face.

One of the thickets of adjustment disorder, though, is that technically the diagnosis says that one’s stress is deemed outsized or exaggerated compared to the stressor or life event. Arguably, then, it’s not quite a match for what survivors of climate disasters experience. The reason why it should work for autistics, by contrast, is that the very nature of the condition is such that we don’t have “normative” responses to normative events.

That said, it would be nice if this newfound (important) focus upon the physical and psychological impacts of crises such as climate disasters and Covid-19 would being more light to similar but pre-existing struggles with everyday life by those with developmentally-different brains from birth.