Have you ever wondered if you might have PTSD or moral injury and asked yourself what the difference might be? Long story short is that moral injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not the same thing. Let’s first start by learning about moral injury and PTSD otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What is moral injury? Moral injury is an injury to someone’s moral conscience and values. This is resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression on the part of themselves or someone else which can cause feelings of guilt or shame and in some cases might cause a sense of betrayal or anger. When it comes to moral injury the individual must feel like a misbehavior occurred and that they or someone else crossed a line to their moral beliefs.


Symptoms of Moral injury

  • Feeling anxious and afraid
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling ashamed
  • Feeling “haunted” by decisions, actions or inactions that have been made


What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is typically triggered by a terrifying or traumatic event. Either something you’ve experienced personally or something that you have witnessed. This can be intrusive thoughts about the incident, recurrent distress/anxiety, flashbacks, and avoidance of similar situations. Although not everyone who experiences traumatic events develop PTSD, but most get better with time and with medical assistance.


Symptoms of PTSD are grouped into different categories


  • Reliving: Flashbacks, hallucinations, nightmares of the incident
  • Avoiding: Avoiding people, places, things, or memories that remind them of the trauma
  • Excessive arousal: Increased alertness, anger, fits of rage, irritability, hatred, difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Intrusive negative distressing thoughts or feelings such as guilt
  • Flat affect
  • Young children may show delays in toilet training, motor skills, or language.

While moral injury and PTSD are not the same, they do have similarities between the two. Some similarities are:

  • Guilt 
  • Shame
  • Betrayal
  • Reliving past events 
  • Loss of trust

While moral injury and PTSD do have similar symptoms including suicidal thoughts, agitation, hypervigilance, and withdrawal, it does differ from PTSD. PTSD is a more fear-based disorder while moral injury is rooted in feelings of guilt and shame. Those who struggle with moral injury might have feelings of being tainted, or unable to believe in their own goodness.

The good thing about learning the differences between moral injury and PTSD means that you can get the proper treatment for what you might be going through. It is important to understand what exactly you might be struggling with so that you can get the proper treatment for it. Group therapy is the most effective method for treating moral injury. This allows those struggling with moral injury to be able to better vocalize their emotions and pain with others who might be going through the same thing.

It allows them to work through what they might be feeling guilty or ashamed about and how others might have gone through similar situations and what they did to work through that. Just like most disorders, group therapy can be extremely beneficial so that you do not feel like you are alone. When it comes to PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, there are a few more options for treatment. Treatment can include medication, therapy, self-care, nutrition, and psychotherapy.

Group therapy might also be a benefit for those struggling with PTSD along with individual therapy. The most important thing to remember is that both of these things are very treatable. They might not be the exact same thing, but they can both be treated similarly.

-Kelsey Rosson

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