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29 Sep The History of PTSD

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a disorder that takes root when a person experiences a traumatic event. It is one of the disorders that is commonly seen co-occurring with addiction, and over half of men who have PTSD also suffer from an addiction. PTSD has been around for as long as stress has, but it hasn’t always been called this, and it hasn’t always been formally recognized by the medical community.

Victims of rape or other instances of violence, victims of tragic accidents, and soldiers are a few examples of people who tend to exhibit PTSD. Veterans of war who come home with this disorder have brought it to the forefront of the scientific community, helping to provide insight, information, and treatment options for those who need help.

Pinning it Down

While doctors, therapists and society as a whole have recognized that stress and trauma can cause serious problems for a very long time, they haven’t been able to pin down the details until very recently. Is this a physiological or psychological problem? What is the exact cause of it? How can we treat it? As medical professionals have strived to answer these questions, the perspective, treatment, and even the name for PTSD has shifted.

During the Victorian Era, doctors were really working hard to determine a cause for PTSD. Civil War veterans were diagnosed with Soldier’s Heart, named for the heart palpitations and shortness of breath brought on by the anxiety associated with PTSD. In the civilian sector, Hysteria was the common name for the nervousness and neurosis of what we would now call PTSD. Railroad accidents that became common in the later part of the 1800s were thought to cause Railway Spine or Compensation sickness. Doctors thought the accident had actually damaged the spine of victims, leaving them unable to manage stress.

The major wars of the 20th century saw a lot of men coming home with PTSD, and each conflict brought about a new surge of effort in trying to treat the disorder, and a new name came along with it. WWI vets were diagnosed with Shell Shock, WWII and Korean vets were thought to have Combat Fatigue, and Vietnam vets were treated for Stress Response Syndrome. These disorders were all thought to be temporary, and probably a result from actual physical trauma to the brain.

Moving Forward

The Post-Vietnam era saw professionals making great strides in pinning down PTSD. Greater understanding of mental disorders, and taking the long-view of the problem opened up extended treatment options. Those suffering from PTSD today still find limited resources for help, but the help they can find is administered by much more knowledgeable professionals who are equipped with more effective tools than ever before for treating the disorder, and the co-occurring addiction that often accompanies it.

Betsy Firth is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. She graduated from Purdue University. She began her career in residential treatment in 1984. Betsy’s professional passion is in assisting others to heal from trauma or disruptions in attachment. She is certified in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) for increasing ability in emotion regulation and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for resolution of traumatic memories. She has found great satisfaction utilizing these skills and abilities in helping those who suffer from the disease of addiction.

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