PTSD… A “Hood Disease”

When folks think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the first thing that usually comes to mind is veterans. However – there is a very close parallel to the atmosphere of war to the atmosphere of living in the inner city. The things that some individuals who live in urban areas, are exposed to can often be traumatic. From poverty to gang-violence, people in inner cities witness events that do not typically transpire in suburbs. These experiences lead to this notion of a “hood disease” (Cole 2017).

Many studies have been conducted that come to the conclusion that the connection between inner city youth and PTSD can lead to violence. Not only is this a criminal justice issue but a public health one as well. What is being done to address it?

I have seen how PTSD affects both populations – veterans (my father) and inner city youth (my clients). There are many commonalities in their behavior and how it manifests in them. What is also interesting to me is that my father was an inner city kid. Did being in the Vietnam War exacerbate his PTSD? Constantly looking over your shoulder and not being able to sit with your back towards the door are two things that my father and my clients have in common.

Inner city violence “has insidious effects on the psychological health of urban civilians”, whether you are a direct victim or are merely exposed to it (Gilkin et. al. 2016). Imagine walking down the street and on every corner there are lit candles, teddy bears, and empty liquor bottles in memory of a homicide victim. The scene is morbid. The aura is often the same. Constantly hearing that your friends or your neighbors were shot at or killed. Innocent peoples lives being taken in a mistaken identity.

Fight or flight. The smartest decision would be flight. But if your family is already experiencing poverty, packing up and leaving is not even an option. So again I ask, what is being done to address it?


Gillikin, C., Habib, L., Evces, M., Bradley, B., Ressler, K. J., & Sanders, J. (2016). Trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms associate with violence in inner city civilians. Journal of psychiatric research83, 1-7.

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