OTSD: Ongoing Traumatic Stress Disorder — a diagnosis for what ails and divides us all

Georgia NeSmith
30 min readAug 24, 2018

The term PTSD does not cover what I believe to be the largest and most difficult to heal traumatic stress disorder: that which is ongoing as it is built into patriarchal/racist culture.

December 28, 2020.

Note: this is re-posted from 2018. It is my most read Medium piece over several years with more than 1.4K views.* It is particularly pertinent to our current times, especially our Pandemic Holiday Season, where joy can be so difficult to find for many people. It’s what the news business calls an “evergreen” piece.

The stories surrounding the pandemic are seriously traumatic both nationwide and worldwide. And the holiday season is a special stressor unto itself because it is so centered on family, and family is a major (if not the primary) source of trauma, particularly trauma not confined to recovery from a single incident but recurs again and again.

And in cases such as trauma involving racist and misogynist political, social, and cultural relationships, it is always structuring lives on a daily basis. Full recovery requires dramatic change in the structure of our lives based on relationships of power.

EDIT 7/12/2021: since the first time I wrote this, I discovered that there is, in fact, a new movement in psychotherapy that labels what I discuss here as Complex Traumatic Stress Disorder, aka “C-PTSD.” You will see that term used much more these days. Obviously the profession is coming to terms with that error. I’m very glad to see it. I will be setting up a bibliography of the most current books on the subject.

*EDIT 1/28/2021 It’s now at 2.2K views. I expect the stats for this will keep on rising.

Little Girl Lost (a digitally and manually enhanced photo collage) by Georgia NeSmith 1993

For several years I worked freelance as an editor/coach of graduate students who come into the academy as marginalized students: that is, as people who belong to communities that are rarely represented in academia, and therefore have much needed but rarely present points of view. This, combined with my own experiences with marginalization — both systemic and…



Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.