Dr. Phalse

You hear the one about the doctor who referred to his patients as “monsters” and “damaged goods” because they suffered from  the disease he was treating him for?


Oh right. That joke doesn’t exist because no medical professional would do that and expect to keep his career and his license.And yet that’s exactly what Dr. Phil did this week in a show about veterans and PTSD.

Just to hammer in his idiotic point, the episode is called “From Heroes to Monsters” and to watch the show you’d think that going to war means coming home to stab and burn your wife. Except that my husband has been to war quite a few times and you won’t find stab or burn marks anywhere on my body. Amazingly (at least, by “Dr” Phil’s reasoning), I can’t think of even one military wife friend who has been stabbed, burned or terrorized by her husband, and this after 10 years of relentless war and repeated deployments. I do have some civilian friends who have taken out restraining orders against their civilian husbands, though, and I had some scary non-military ex-boyfriends before I met my husband. Of course, some veterans do turn violent, but those sad stories are hardly representative of all who have served; they’re not even representative of those who have PTSD.

But it’s so much more Hollywood and sensational to perpetuate the scary vet myth, I suppose, than to do a show that accurately tells people about PTSD. I guess that’s why Dr. Phil used his platform to inspire fear, rather than understanding. The irony is that the show aired this week, the anniversary of the Joining Forces Initiative, the movement that calls on Americans to reach out and do more for the military community.

Nice one, McGraw.

I do have some friends with PTSD. And you know what they tell me it mostly means? Sometimes it means they have trouble sleeping, or they don’t like things that remind them of a bad experience. There might be a short little movie of a traumatic experience that plays in their heads. And, really, that’s it. It’s not usually debilitating and it’s certainly not usually threatening to others. And veterans aren’t the only ones with PTSD. Anyone can get it, and many people do after going through a traumatic experience. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had a bit of PTSD after the birth of my daughter Rudy. She was born during a hurricane and I barely made it to the hospital in time. For weeks I kept replaying the events in my head, obsessing over all the details.  But now, three and a half years later, I rarely think about it at all. My condition wasn’t permanent. I wasn’t damaged by it, I was just set back a little. Just like most of our veterans who are experiencing PTSD now. They don’t need labels and they certainly don’t need to be called “monsters”.

You can read what my friend Kristle has to say about it here:

And, finally, if you’d like to let Dr. Phil and his staff know what you think, you can do so here:


Dr. Phil Show
5482 Wilshire Boulevard #1902
Los Angeles, CA 90036

And I hope that you will. I’m not usually one to demand an apology, but someone who purports to be a healer needs to do the responsible thing and devote a show to telling the REAL story of PTSD.




4 thoughts on “Dr. Phalse

  1. I totally agree with you. I too believe that I experienced PTSD years ago after my divorce. I had all of the classic symptoms. But I made it through and now I am married to an amazing man in the army. No one would have called me a monster though and I would have been very offending if someone had. Dr. Phil should know better and should be better educated also!

  2. Great article. I saw the episode myself and had a different interpretation. I think Dr.Phil may have been harsh on the soldier in order to get him to take responsibility. It is not the soldiers fault that he was hurt or was diagnosed with PTSD, but it is his fault is he doesn’t take care of himself and get better for his family. Just because there is a legit reason for someones behavior doesn’t mean it is always healthy to always “support” their actions. Congrats on your new baby, I look forward to your next article/blog post. Martha.

  3. Oh, I just wanted to add that although I did interpret the show differently than you you did bring up a good point and I can see how many people would be offended by the show. I think maybe my years working in social services has just given me a different perspective. M.

  4. People don’t actually take Dr. Phil seriously anymore, do they?

    Like you, Rebekah, I think I had PTSD after a car accident long ago. It was fairly pronounced for a while but eventually resolved itself.

    And of the hundreds of people I’ve seen in my courtroom for domestic violence cases (as well as the countless other violent crime cases I handle), I can’t remember the last time there was a military related PTSD component to the crime. We do have military around here and some of them commit crimes, but combat PTSD just doesn’t show up as a factor in the cases I handle.

    Well done being the voice of reason and speaking for the vets on this, Rebekah.


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