The American Psychiatric Association has not formally recognized the symptoms of being a victim of identity theft as meeting the standards for a PTSD diagnosis, but some psychiatrists believe that the symptoms are quite similar. The Identity Theft Recovery Center, the first organization to study the emotional impact of identity theft on victims, found that victims of identity theft suffer from symptoms resembling the symptoms of PTSD.
Generally when we hear of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD we think of service men and women returning from war or victims of crimes such as rape, repeated abuse or violent assaults. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and is applicable to “life-limb” threatening events. The American Psychiatric Association has not formally recognized the symptoms of being a victim of identity theft as meeting the standards for a PTSD diagnosis, but some psychiatrists believe that the symptoms are quite similar. The Identity Theft Recovery Center, the first organization to study the emotional impact of identity theft on victims, found that victims of identity theft suffer from symptoms resembling the symptoms of PTSD.
The Financial and Time Investments in Recovering from Identity Theft
-Victims of identity theft are left with an average of $1,884.00 of out of pocket expenses to clear up misinformation. These out of pocket expenses included postage, photocopying, childcare, travel, records, fees, legal help and investigators.
-It can take an average of 97 hours to resolve identity theft involving existing accounts.
-It can take an average of 231 hours to resolve identity theft involving new accounts.
-59% of victims say that it took up to a year to clear up the consequences of identity theft.
-14% say that it took up to two years.
-29% report that it took more than two years.
Dr. Charles Nelson, a psychologist who specializes in crime victims, finds that many victims of identity theft also suffer from socially and emotionally. Many victims reported strain in their relationships with significant others, stress within their family life. Some reported sleep disturbances and others shared that the crime was also affecting their children.
Dr. Nelson explains, “Although there is no direct physical injury in this crime, identity theft victims know all too well the psychological, emotional, social, and at times physical destructive swath of pain that has been cut through their lives.”
Victims often used language to express how that felt that is strikingly resembles the language of a victim of assault or sexual assault including phrases such as “dirty, defiled, embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, an outcast, undeserving of assistance or having brought this crime upon myself.”
Identity Theft Victims Symptoms are Similar to Those with PTSD:
Victims of identity theft described themselves as being:
-Too tired to fight
-Unprotected by police or laws
-Deeply fearful for personal financial security
When the perpetrator of identity theft is a family member the emotional impact appears to be heavier. Dr. Nelson explains that the challenges resemble the challenges felt by those who are physically or repeatedly abused by family members as the victim is in a “self preservation vs. pleasing family members who take the side of the perpetrator.” Many victims of identity theft crimes perpetrated by family members felt that family were unsupportive and were often torn regarding filing charges. Dr. Nelson feels that therapy is indicated in most of these cases.
If you or someone you know has experienced identity theft, do you agree or disagree with the comparison to PTSD?