Claims Task: PTSD

“Is PTSD Contagious?”

Basic Claim Types

We spoke only briefly in class about types of claims, so I don’t expect you to readily recognize a definition/categorical claim. Obviously, it’s a claim about how a term is defined or what category of thing it belongs to. We can start there. Here are some claim types.

1. Definition Claim. When you say “PTSD is a psychological disorder,” in your first five words you’re making a definition claim.
2. Analogy Claim. When you say, “PTSD is similar to other communicable diseases because it can be spread by a victim to others with whom he interacts,” you’re claiming a similarity of one thing to another.
3. Categorical Claim. A simple categorical claim would be the naming of several examples of PTSD symptoms (hyperawareness, sleeplessness, quick anger). They all belong to the category: Symptoms of PTSD. Similarly, if you claimed, “PTSD is not only a psychological disorder but also one that can be spread to others through close contact,” you could be making a categorical claim of the sort: PTSD belongs to the category of ailments that can be spread or communicable ailments.
4. Factual Claim. A claim that circumstances or conditions exist beyond doubt. Factual claims can be proved by appealing to indisputable evidence. “Ten thousand veterans of the Iraq war have been diagnosed with PTSD” can be quantified and proved. However, “Ten thousand veterans of the Iraq war SUFFER FROM PTSD” is not indisputable since it depends on a clear definition, accurate diagnosis, and an absence of fraud or error.
5. Evaluative Claim. A claim that involves judgment of the characteristics of an item or situation. Evaluations are arguable and can be supported by expertise, authority, credentials, or a preponderance of evidence. They can evaluate the quality of an item, its suitability for a particular purpose, or the effectiveness of a course of action. “Family members of veterans suffering from PTSD are not getting adequate support to deal with their own traumas” is an evaluative claim.
6. Ethical or Moral Claim. A type of evaluative claim that places a judgment on a social situation expresses an ethical or moral judgment. “Family members are not getting the support THEY DESERVE” is an ethical claim that blames the Veterans Administration for a failure to support the veteran’s family.
7. Quantitative, Numerical, or Comparative Claim. Such claims may be factual or evaluative depending on the reliability of the measurements. To say “There are more returning veterans with PTSD now than ever before in the history of warfare” is to make an evaluative numerical claim (it also compares this day with all previous days and is therefore comparative).
8. Causal Claim. Causal claims are assertions of cause and effect, consequences, preconditions, or predictions of what will occur in certain circumstances. An example of a causal claim you’ll likely encounter is that PTSD develops as a result of sustained trauma. The claim is that “Trauma causes PTSD.”
9. Recommendation or Proposal Claim. Authors who write to convince an audience to adopt a course of action (or at the very least to adopt a different point of view on a topic of social importance) are making a proposal claim. The word “should,” or “must,” or
“demand” inevitably appears in a proposal argument.

Similarity of Category and Analogy

Calling PTSD “contagious” also seems like an analogy, doesn’t it? Colds and flus are likely contagious. Measles is; polio is. But if we say a yawn is contagious, or that enthusiasm is contagious, we’re making an analogy to suggest, poetically, that a yawn belongs to the category: contagious things.

Yawning isn’t spread through bacteria or viruses, so it isn’t literally contagious. Neither is enthusiasm. But it spreads similarly to diseases: one person in close proximity to others transfers a condition: a physical yawn or an purposeful emotional energy to a roomful of other people, for example.

So what do you think? Is PTSD transferred from one person to another? If so, is the process more like spreading the flu, or more like spreading enthusiasm? Or a third way you could explain in a different analogy?

Did Brannan “catch” Caleb’s PTSD? Or is hers an entirely new case?

Student Sample

Last semester’s class did not format their exercises as suggested above, so I can’t show you a sample of that technique. They were also not told to identify claims by category. However, the student featured below did a creditable job of informally analyzing claims from the source material. I offer it to you as a sample of a smart student making good observations.


  1. “The house is often as quiet as a morgue. You can hear the cat padding around.”
  • House: The word “house” indicates a wholeness or collectiveness assessed in the argument here. The author wants to show the environmental effects of Caleb’s illness by describing the home.
  • As quiet as a morgue: Perhaps, to make the claim more effective, the author uses a simile to compare the quietness in the house to that of death.
  • The downfall of this claim starts when the cat is introduced because it is irrelevant to the idea presented.
  • The claim would be more effective if the the author had touched more upon the idea of death. The cat fails to paint a picture in the authors head.
  1. “After making sure she’s at least an arm’s length distance away.”
  • A household effect of PTSD
  • Eliminates any type of injury in the bedroom
  • This claim reveals that Brannan’s carefulness is nearly installed into her way of life
  • The distance that the author talks about is not the point at all
  • The “making sure” is a reflection of Brannan’s hesitant and anxious personality that is merely a reflection of Caleb’s PTSD.
  1. “This PTSD picture is worse than some, but much better, Brannan knows, than those that have devolved into drug addiction and rehab stints and relapses.”
  • Brannan infuses her personal opinion
  • Someone who has abused drugs has it bad certainly. But this author has no authority to categorize different levels of PTSD.
  • There is no data to support her point, which leads to a generalization.
  • This claim would have been more effective if she gave first hand examples of people who have devolved into drug addiction in an effort to cope with their PTSD.
  1. “Some hypotheses for why PTSD only tortures some trauma victims blame it on unhappily coded protein, or a misbehaving amygdala.”
  • This is a categorical claim because it groups the opinions of PTSD patients into one category.
  • Some. From the word “some” we can make the assumption that there is at least two people in the argument.
  • There is more opinions and ideas that have yet to be tested
  • This claim is made to amplify that this field of study has a lot more information to uncover
  1. “But whatever people have called it, they haven’t been likely to grasp or respect it.”
  • This claim is unclear, but it seems to be an attempt to stand up for PTSD victims in a sense that not many people can relate to what they are going through.
  • Who is “they”?
  • The term “they” suggests there is more than one person who has failed to understand PTSD and its side effects.
  • This author fails miserably in her claim because the author is not a credible source, therefore, cannot relate to people with PTSD. The claim is entirely subjective.
  1. “You can’t see Caleb’s other wound, either.”
  • This claim makes a comparison between Caleb’s physical signs of distress as opposed to his internal battle
  • The author talks directly to the audience by using “you” to focus on Caleb’s internal wounds.
  • We feel obligated to show remorse for Caleb.
  • See. This sensory detail allows for an effective, persuasive argument, yet could be more efficient if the author used other senses such as feel or sound to paint a more vivid picture for the reader
  1. “The Army has rules about that sort of thing now.”
  • What rules? What “sort of thing” do they have rules for?
  • This claim is technically true, but it does not convince me that the Army is doing everything in its power to help people affected by war.
  • Sort of thing. This broadens the horizon significantly. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a specific sickness that should be identified as such. There are numerous injuries that result from war. The author is being too vague here. The author should focus specifically on PTSD instead of making a blurred claim that may confuse the reader.
  • It seems entirely unclear what the Army is actually doing to support its non-active duty members. This claim fails to specify any sort of moral or physical support for people that suffer from PTSD.
  1. “But there’s still a lot about brain damage that doctors, much less civilians, don’t understand.”
  • This sounds like a repetition of the fourth claim about the lack of knowledge in this field of study, but the addition of society allows the claim to make a connection with the reader
  • Why the writer chooses this point in his argument to add civilians to his argument is unclear.
  • Why is the author focusing more on what we don’t understand instead of giving advice to people with PTSD?
  • This claim fails because it is irrelevant to the subject matter. It is more of a topic sentence rather than an analysis on Caleb and Brannan.



  • DUE BEFORE CLASS WED FEB 19 (11:59 pm TUE FEB 18).
  • Publish your assignment in two categories: Claims Analysis (find it under Tasks) and the category for your Username.
  • Give your post the title PTSD Claims–Username, substituting your own username, of course.
  • Read the Mother Jones article “Is PTSD Contagious?,” or listen to the podcast. Both links are found in the Agenda for MON FEB 17.
  • Find a paragraph or small section that contains many claims for your analysis. The more claims you can identify in a paragraph, the more impressive your results will be.
  • Limit your writing time to 60 Minutes.
  • Don’t count words this time. Just give yourself a time limit of one hour. I’m not looking for volume or gargantuan effort. I want you to work efficiently and produce good results without spending a lot of time.
  • I will critique your responses and grade them once. The grade is not trivial, but it’s small compared to your Portfolio grades.
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Non-Portfolio Assignment

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