History of PTSD

Last Updated 7/25/2016

A Brief History of PTSD

  • PTSD has been with us pretty much since Cain and Abel.
  • The first kings of Israel – Saul (1020-1000 BCE) and David (1000-960 BCE) both struggled mightily (and violently) with their respective PTSD.
  • The Iliad and the Odyssey (800 BCE) were all about PTSD.
    • The Trojan war was just the platform for the real story.
  • Cultures who could not find a way to heal PTSD no longer exist.
    • Indigenous tribes (villages <1000 population) are particularly vulnerable.
      • If they were to lose 5-10% of their best and brightest every time they had a kerfuffle, they would soon disappear.
    • Plains Indians’ healing ceremonies included emulating the Buffalo.
  • We Americans have never mastered healing it . . . but we’re great at re-naming it:
    • PTSD (Vietnam and subsequent)
    • Combat/Battle Fatigue (WWII, Korea)
    • Shell Shock (WWI)
    • Soldier’s Heart (Civil War)
    • etc.
  • But after several centuries, we are still pathetically inept around its remediation.
  • After Vietnam, it took the VA and the Mental Health Industry ten years to even name it – and for another decade it was universally regarded it as a Character Disorder.
    • Then several decades of [unsuccessful] efforts to treat it that ramped up very slowly.
      • Notably, with no effort at all to study how other cultures might have dealt with it [Some Fun Facts].
  • The VA and the Mental Health Industry have an abysmal history around treating PTSD and its symptoms

Some Types of events Regarded as PTSD Cause Factors

The Conventional Wisdom – often regarded to as THE origin of PTSD

  • Shock and Terror from battle experiences.
  • Close combat – fire-fights, ambushes, assaults, Battles, etc.
    • Mostly, close contact involving small arms at close range or serious bombardment.
    • The intensity and violence of combat cannot be over-emphasized or even described.
      • It has been said that “. . . trying to explain close combat to a man who’s never been there, is like . . . trying to explain the color blue to a man who’s blind since birth . . .”.
    • Loss of close friends “Battle Buddies”.
      • Men you’re closer to than anyone else you’ll ever have in your life.
        • Civilians have trouble comprehending the closeness, intimacy and fierce bond of these relationships.
        • Having no opportunity to grieve these losses when they occur adds greatly to the level of trauma.
      • These types of experiences are popularly believed to be the cause of PTSD.
        • More recent studies indicate that direct fire, while hugely traumatic, is the major factor in maybe 40% of the more serious symptoms (notably Flashbacks and Nightmares).

 The Rest of the Story – not so widely discussed causes

 Moral Injury:

  • Grunts have practically no power over their destiny. They depend totally on “Higher Authority” for their welfare, success and even their survival.
    • The grunts do their job, with the clear understanding that the people “in charge”, the folks with all the power and authority, will take care of them.
    • Violations and betrayal of this “Sacred Trust” might include such things as:

Some Fun Facts

  • The pre-war population of South Vietnam was about 19 Million.
  • There were north of 3 Million South Vietnamese killed outright in the war.
  • That’s one in every six citizens
  • Wounded casualties outnumber those killed by about 9 or 10 to 1.
  • So, statistically, ten out of every six South Vietnamese citizens was wounded.
  • In a culture of extended families, that makes for (statistically):
    • At least two immediate members of every Vietnamese families was killed.
    • Every citizen of the country was shot at least once.
  • Now that’s some VERY SERIOUS trauma – by ANY measure!
    • Yet there’s no trace of PTSD anywhere in South Vietnam.
      • And, interestingly enough, no “modern”, “scientific” Mental Health system or practices.
    • Naturally, you’d think (that with north of 20 suicides every day being attributed to PTSD), that the VA and the mental health industry would be all over South Vietnam trying to figure out what they did and how they did it.
    • Amazingly, pathetically, you’d think WRONG!!