Could you actually confuse someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also referred to as PTSD, with the individual suffering from unhealthy levels of narcissism? Yes, I think it’s possible. It would also be a tragedy if that occurred. Let me further explain.
We know that many of the Vietnam War veterans developed problems with alcoholism or drug addiction. This probably happened because hey were trying to deal with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because we did not know about PTSD at the time, and we didn’t have treatments for it, veterans were left to deal with the symptoms of PTSD on their one. And indeed, to deal with the painful memories and the flashbacks, for example, many turned to alcohol and drugs to self medicate. Then, over time, they became alcoholics and drug addicts.
Some of these same veterans who developed PTSD engaged in emotional abuse and verbal abuse, using it against their wives and their children. While this certainly wasn’t a good thing, again, it wasn’t surprising because of their PTSD. Many with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder experience irritation or become angry, often at the least little provocation, too.
If you have been reading about unhealthy levels of narcissism, never mind the even more extreme version of unhealthy narcissism exhibited in Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD, you might think that these problematic behaviors have a familiar ring. That’s because many times, in the narcissist, we do see addictions such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and sexual addiction. Narcissists also have a propensity to engage in emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and perhaps other forms of abuse such as sexual abuse. So, if you didn’t know someone was a war veteran, but you observed addictions and abusive ways in the individual, you might suspect the person was narcissistic.
You might suspect it for other reasons, too. The war veteran might be inclined to disregard the family; he or she might isolate and not want to participate in important events meaningful to others. And, because the war veteran might appear unwilling to assume certain responsibilities, he or she might come across as lacking concern for others, or self centered. However, again, these responses likely don’t stem from narcissism, but could easily be symptoms of PTSD. Remember, those suffering from unhealthy narcissism, and certainly those who are diagnosable as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, all display a certain number of common characteristics or traits. But the one that truly distinguishes Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the other personality disorders is the characteristic of grandiosity.
I suspect that you won’t find most war veterans to be grandiose. In fact, the majority probably won’t want to discuss what they did and the horrific things they encountered at all. And again, they might well like to isolate. If they elect to be with others, they will probably want to be around those who are war veterans like themselves. After all, they want to be with people can understand what they went through, plus the resulting emotionally painful aftermath.
But now, let’s go back and discuss why it is so important that we don’t confuse the war veterans suffering from PTSD with those suffering from narcissism. It is important because today, PTSD might be treatable in many cases, but it needs to be caught early on rather than later. Also, because it tends to impact the younger warriors more so than the older ones, and folks in their late teens and early twenties might be most apt to deny they have problems, it might be vital for others to recognize what might be going on. As a wife, other member of the family, a friend, or a concerned member of the community, you might need to quietly intervene and encourage this person to seek help.
There is no need for us to have a repeat of what happened for so many war veterans and their families after the War in Vietnam. There is hope this time around, but there also might be only a small window of opportunity to make a real difference. Ensure the veteran with PTSD doesn’t miss it.