History of PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is an anxiety disorder which is a result of a traumatic event, threatening health, causing grave harm, such as a terrorist incident, military combat, assault, accident, etc. It is different from a traumatic stress, has longer duration and is more intensive. The evolution of the phenomenon itself is not an easy task to follow, as in different countries and various historical periods it was differently called because of the ambiguity of the concept and its symptoms. Early historical medical literature covers a psychiatric condition with symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder. Some of them for instance date back to the US Civil War. People suffering from post traumatic stress disorder often experience nightmares, flashbacks, have insomnia, trouble sleeping and other problems. The diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder is quite controversial and subjective as people who undergo traumas appear to have different trauma thresholds, “some more protected and some more vulnerable to developing clinical symptoms after exposure to extremely stressful situations”¯. Though veterans of World War II and Holocaust were recorded to experience post traumatic stress disorder, when the notion was first introduced in 1980s the point was quite ambiguous. Still post traumatic stress disorder filled an important gap in psychiatric theory and practice. The key concept in understanding the scientific basis and expression of post traumatic stress disorder is the notion of “trauma”¯. The framers of the original post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis meant the events causing stress such as torture, war, Holocaust, atomic bombing, natural disaster. Post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis is peculiar in the fact that the traumatic stressor is in the core of the notion and reveals the essence of the cause and effect interconnection.

Post traumatic stress disorder, coined in 1980s, was observed during the wars such as the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, but it was not only limited to war veterans. It effected all layers of society, men and women in war zones were recorded to have thirty per cent likelihood of experiencing post traumatic stress disorder. According to the study of the year 2005, twenty per cent of Iraqi veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. About ten per cent of active-duty military retired women in Iraq also suffer from this disorder (Epstein & Miller). Generally, the statistics is speaking and impressive.

The treatment of this disorder evolved together with the changing terms, such as “hysteria”¯, “shell shock”¯, “battle fatigue”¯, etc. Meanwhile the treatment followed the basis scientific notion and its former course. By the World War II the notion of “shell shock”¯ was replaced with “battle fatigue”¯ and by mid Vietnam War it started to be recognized as “post traumatic stress disorder”¯. By the end of the Vietnam War, scholars observed that not only veterans suffered PTSD symptoms. Treatment approaches were quite predictable. It was mainly based on the victim “rest”¯, resembling “talk therapy”¯. According to A History of PTSD Treatment article, “by the time of World War II the effort has become one of screening out of those individuals that were deemed psychologically weak”¯. Many soldiers suffering PTSD were blamed for being cowards and were ostracized by society. The treatment evolved with the development of medication such as sedative substances to reduce stress. “Talk therapy”¯ in combination with sedatives was surely an progress, but still the methodology was far from fully treating the patients. The most effective methods of treating, including “gentling”¯ approach, concentrated on emotions control and self-discipline.

It is obvious that gaining knowledge on post traumatic stress disorder will provide us with better solutions of the problem and more effective interventions for the victims afflicted with the disorder.

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