Racism & PTSD: A Case for Race Based PTSD Recognition

A recent New York Times Article by JENNA WORTHAM - Racism’s Psychological Toll - focuses on the link between racism and post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma almost always features an element of dehumanization; when faced with a terrifying event that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm, to oneself or others, self-identity becomes damaged. Feelings of dehumanization are highly prevalent in rape and sexual assault traumas. Racism itself is highly dehumanizing; an individual may be treated differently, discriminated against, targeted or attacked, solely based upon the color of their skin. This is objectification at the core. Currently, race-based trauma disorders are not formally recognized in the D.S.M. Likely in the future, the PTSD classification will include more specific sub-classifications. This is a very important read in my opinion.

The New York Times article features an interview with Monnica Williams, a psychologist, professor and the director of the University of Louisville’s Center for Mental Health Disparities, who argues that "racism should be included as a cause of PTSD in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.)."

Excerpt: "Williams now studies the link between racism and post-traumatic stress disorder, which is known as race-based traumatic stress injury, or the emotional distress a person may feel after encountering racial harassment or hostility. Although much of Williams’s work focuses on individuals who have been directly targeted by racial discrimination or aggression, she says race-based stress reactions can be triggered by events that are experienced vicariously, or externally, through a third party — like social media or national news events."