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PTSD: A Very Modern Trauma

ptsd illustrationWe’ve been familiar with the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since the Vietnam War. The diagnosis of PTSD revolves around the presence of trauma and symptoms that include “intrusive memories, hyper-arousal, and avoidance of reminders or emotional numbing.” Most of us figured it was a modern name for a condition once called shell shock, battle fatigue, or something else even further back in time.

But until now, few studies have systematically looked for PTSD or post-trauma reactions in the older historical record. Two recent studies have done exactly this, however, and found no evidence for a historical syndrome equivalent to PTSD.

A study just published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders looked at the extensive medical records for soldiers in the American Civil War, whose mortality rate was about 50-80 greater than modern soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In other words, there would have been many more having terrifying experiences but despite the higher rates of trauma and mentions of other mental problems, there is virtually no mention of anything like the intrusive thoughts or flashbacks of PTSD.

A different study looked at even older records, going back to antiquity, and found the same lack of specific symptoms that designate PTSD. It may be truly a unique and modern malady. Could it be because our modern lives are different, or maybe modern warfare is different, or could it be even our brains that are different today? A post at Mind Hacks has links to the original research papers. Link -via Boing Boing

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August 13th, 2012

Stranger to the World


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