It’s not new, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but the addition of the health issue to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) occurred in 1952 as “gross stress reaction” allowing formal research into causes, assistance and hopefully cures. PTSD has been documented far back in history with the recording of horrifying thoughts and nightmares after dealing with exposure to traumatic events appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 B.C.) and in the history of the 400 B.C. battle of Marathon.
The many horrors of the American Civil War brought medical diagnoses of “feeble will” for which public ridicule was considered the cure. The American rail line brought many horrific accidents and people who were involved often became diagnosed with anxiety and sleeplessness labeled “railway spine” and “railway brain.” The “War to End all Wars,” World War I (WWI), introduced the term “shell shock” and WWII attributed long deployments to “battle fatigue,” “combat fatigue” and “combat stress reaction.”
War veterans, Holocaust survivors, sexual assault victims and individuals who experience other traumatic events fall into the APA diagnosis of PTSD as of 1980. The Vietnam conflict and the huge number of military conflicts between then and now finally demanded a more comprehensive research into the affliction. The diagnosis states it strikes people from full combat service in live armed forces battles finally acknowledging they suffer from an illness and not just a minor case of the shakes.
Beyond the battlefield PTSD strikes many people who are involved in violence, neglect or abuse. The symptoms included repeatedly reliving the event(s), a constant feeling that one is unsafe, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, and physical problems (intestinal, breathing or heart rate).
Today many recognize PTSD as a true diagnosable malady, which gives one hope we can help those afflicted with therapy along with other treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses the individual’s thoughts, behaviors and feelings with the aim of changing the person’s perception. One finds disturbances in everyday events because of the prior trauma while treatment seeks to move the person’s disturbing thoughts into a less aggressive mood.
Treatment is not simple, quick or guaranteed, but we have moved to a place accepting of the problem instead of dismissing it as unimportant or unrealistic.