© 2016 Stefan J. Malecek, Ph.D., MAC

A Historical Note

Descriptions of reactions to traumatic situations abound, though the denomination of PTSD has only appeared in recent years. The following citations are found in Bentley (1991, p. 13): “Three thousand years ago an Egyptian combat veteran” described severe anxiety symptoms experienced prior to returning to battle. Herodotus (480 BCE) documented the case of a “Spartan commander” who dismissed his troops from an upcoming encounter at the battle of Thermopylae Pass because, “They had no heart for the battle.” Herodotus (490 BCE) documented a case of hysterical blindness after the battle of Marathon; and in 1003 AD, King Alfred was so stricken on the eve of battle that he “began to vomit, and was not able to lead his men.”

Shay (1994) vividly recounts the experiences of Vietnam veterans, and compares them to the devastating account of Homer’s (800 BCE) Iliad, detailing the parallel lines of experience along which warriors of both eras trod, suffered, and remembered.

Traumatic Orientation

The New Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey (NVVRS) (1988) was used to evaluate the level of healing experienced by Vietnam veterans. (The actual hope at the time was that it would reveal no need for further funding of the Vets’ Centers). King, King, Foy, Keane, and Fairbank (1999) worked a re-analysis of the original data that combined prewar, during war, and postwar variables in order to determine which the most important (Table 3) were.

There was a marked difference between men and women. For women vets, PTSD was directly affected by (1) the prewar risk factor of an early trauma history; (2) the war-zone stressors of atrocities, abusive violence, and perceived threat; and (3) postwar resilience-recovery variables of additional stressful life events, hardiness, and functional social support. For men, PTSD was directly affected by these same variables, in addition to the prewar risk factor of age at entry to the war; the war zone stressor of malevolent environment; and the postwar resilience-recovery variable of structural social support.

Schnurr, Lunney, and Sengupta (2004) conducted a reanalysis that concluded that pre-military factors such as Hispanic ethnicity; family instability; severe punishment during childhood; childhood antisocial behavior; and depression, were most significant indicators of developing PTSD and its intensity. Other congruent military factors were: War-zone exposure, peri-traumatic dissociation (at the time of the traumatic event), and depression.

For the sake of this work, (and discounting actual combat exposure), it is quite clear that: early trauma history, family instability, severe punishment during childhood, childhood antisocial behavior, and depression were highly correlated both in the development, and later severity of PTSD in veterans of both sexes.

Although much research must needs be done, I believe that these citations strongly point to PTSD developing as the direct result of traumatic socialization, and the denial of feeling and expressing empathy―indicating that those who are traumatically injured are simply the by-products of an unfeeling, uncaring global society.