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A Brief History of PTSD

A Brief History of PTSD

 A Brief History of PTSD

understanding the history of PTSD

The history of PTSD is complicated, and we are truly still discovering and understanding the full effects of the disease. It’s a relatively new term for a condition that has impacted soldiers for thousands of years. Symptoms demonstrative of the deteriorating psychological effects of PTSD have been recorded throughout warfare’s history.

The history of PTSD takes us back all the way to Ancient Greece. In writings by the Greek historian Hereodotus, he alludes to symptoms including conversion reactions and other common psychological symptoms of PTSD that are well documented in today’s soldiers. For example, in writing of Spartan commander Leonidas he mentions that he had to refuse men joining the battle as he could see they were psychologically exhausted from the previous fight.

We also know by looking at the history of PTSD that this condition has not only affected soldiers. In writings about the Great Fire of London of 1666, one Englishman describes the experience of not being able to be asleep or awake without the fear of fire consuming him. These symptoms persisted for months and resulted in the man falling into deep despair and anger. Many modern PTSD sufferers can relate to these symptoms.

The history of PTSD made big strides in 1678, when Swiss military physicians officially identified and named the group of symptoms related to the disorder. They referred to the condition as “Nostalgia”. Around the same time, German doctors were diagnosing the same symptoms in their troops, and coined the term “heimweh”, meaning homesickness. Later on the Spanish adapted a term a little closer to hitting the emotional experience of PTSD, calling it “estar roto”, meaning literally to be broken.

Despite the history of PTSD spanning back to ancient civilizations, Western doctors and leaders in modern wars have been reluctant to address and acknowledge the disorder. Of the eight hundred thousand US troops that saw combat in WWII, nearly 40% of them suffered from such severe PTSD that they were discharged permanently. The serious psychological damage was brushed off as “battle fatigue”. After the Korean War, approximately one fourth of all soldiers in combat suffered from PTSD. Nearly one third of Vietnam veterans have displayed PTSD symptoms. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association finally coined the term post-traumatic stress disorder and recognized it as an official mental disorder. Research is still unclear but it is thought that somewhere between 25-50% of the American troops returning from the Middle East suffer or will suffer from PTSD.

When looking at the history of PTSD, we must also look at it’s future. The symptoms of PTSD are very serious, and can have a major influence on a person’s life. The most common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experience of a traumatic event
  • Depression, lack of hope
  • Increased anxiety, fear, and emotional responses
  • Avoidance of reminders of event
  • Suicidal thoughts or feeling

If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, there is help available. Many people with PTSD show an amazing response to treatment, but it is unfortunately very common for sufferers not to seek out help. There are some great treatment options out there, including:

  • Cognitive Therapy –With cognitive therapy a therapist helps the patient learn to change how he thinks about the trauma and its aftermath. By learning to change and stop destructive thought patterns, the patient is able to react more normally to stimuli.
  • Exposure Therapy – With exposure therapy, by talking with a therapist about thoughts and feelings about the trauma, the patient is able to stop fearing them. The patient is able to safely face their fears and learn to overcome them.
  • Neurofeedback Therapy – This therapy uses computers for brain-training exercises to redirect wayward brainwaves back to an organized, healthy pattern. By doing this, the brain becomes more stable and efficient. Studies have shown it to be effective in treating a wide range of neurological conditions. To learn more about this therapy, click here.
  • Medication – A doctor will sometimes prescribe antidepressants, anti-psychotics, or anti-anxiety medications. However, such medications should be carefully monitored due to serious side effects and risk of dependence.

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