During the American civil war, soldiers were traumatized, but when medics diagnosed them, the condition was termed “Soldier’s heart.” The doctors concluded that their psychological disorder was based on cardiac problems. Although it took quite a while for medical practitioners to recognize the condition as PTSD, signs of the disorder appeared in ancient wars about 3,000 years ago. PTSD is the natural human response to several traumatic events like natural disasters, assaults, and wars.
Discovery Of Ptsd: Combat And Beyond
The word “combat stress” can be seen in historical literature from 2,000 years ago. One of the first uses of the term was in a story about the battle of Marathon written by Herodotus as far back as the fifth century Ancient Greece. Old stories of battle trauma and dreams that bring back traumatic experiences were all documented by Hippocrates (4607-377 BC). Also, in 50 BC, Lucretius recorded stories like this in his poem De Rerum Natura.
After that, PTSD flashbacks and nightmares linked to war could be seen in the story of the Hundred Year’s War between England and France (1337-1453). Shakespeare also alluded to it in several plays, including Romeo and Juliet. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio gives a narration of Queen Mab, a character who made dreams of battles and death.
PTSD In The 1800s
In the 1800s, PTSD from combat and war zone participation was quickly concluded as “battle exhaustion” or “soldier fatigue.” This was because, at that time, soldiers were constantly in battle, and the natural explanation for their trauma was exhaustion from the long engagement with daily fire. PTSD was also called the “thousand-yard stare,” an allusion to the vacant look and the distorted behavior of traumatized soldiers. In 1887, a physician at the Salpetriere Hospital documented that trauma could lead to hysterical attacks that might occur a year after.
PTSD did not only happen due to combat; it also occurred due to trauma. PTSD symptoms went down in history with different names. Some people referred to it as the “railway spine” about those who survived fatal railroad accidents in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Sigmund Freud popularized the “talking cure” in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The talking cure method was used to cure symptoms that PTSD might have caused. This cure was one of the other interventions used to help survivors of traumatic events. The talking cure method is one of the early therapy used to cure PTSD symptoms even before PTSD became a diagnosis.
PTSD In The 1990s And Modern Day
World War I redefined the traumatic effects of war. A new vocabulary was added to medical literature in 1915; it was termed “shell shock.” This condition shared similar symptoms with PTSD, and over time, it became the forerunner of the diagnosis we know as PTSD today. Treatments for shell shock spread across different disciplines, from electric shocks to psychoanalysis.
By the 1950s, treatment had become less harmful and more humane, but many people refused to admit to any symptoms pointing toward trauma because there was a stigma around mental illness. Medicine evolved through the development of group therapy and other psychotropic medications.
Modern PTSD became more popular in the 1970s as Vietnam veterans complained of experiencing mental problems and insisted that it was upon their return home from the war.
A study of the Holocaust started with social movements in the 1970s; they studied Vietnam veterans and people that suffered domestic abuse. In 1974, Ann Wolbert Burgess and sociologist Lynda Lytle Holmstrom came up with the term “Rape Trauma Syndrome.” This term was used to describe the different levels of PTSD experienced by women who had gone through extreme trauma.
This research shined more light on the effects of trauma, made it easier to understand the impact of trauma, and birthed an official description of PTSD in 1980. It was during that time that PTSD was finally diagnosed as a psychological condition and was adopted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
In the 1990s, more research was done, and more treatments for PTSD became available. And in the last few years, we’ve witnessed treatments like eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), ketamine infusion and other modern medications.
There are several other treatments for PTSD. Among them, ketamine therapy has been extremely successful and comes with very few side effects. Ketamine therapy works more directly than antidepressants on a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Through this action, ketamine therapy stimulates new neural growth in brain areas associated with learning, memory, and mood regulation, which means patients get to heal rather than just cope.