Medical records as far back as the Civil War show symptoms of PTSD

by | Oct 1, 2011

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, to be published in November 2011.
Evolution of PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not new research or discovery.  In 1993, the Dept of Veterans Affairs raised questions about mental health issues in previous wars.  A study was initiated using records from doctors who had participated in a war as far back as the Civil War.
The list of syndromes and disorders include,
·        U.S. Civil War – Irritable Heart and Nostalgia
·        WWI – Effort syndrome/Soldier’s Heart and Shell Shock
·        WWII/Korea – Effort Syndrome and Battle Fatigue/Combat Exhaustion (acute combat stress reaction)
·        Vietnam War – Agent Orange Exposure and Post Vietnam syndrome (PTSD)
·        Gulf War – Gulf War syndrome and adjustment reaction/PTSD
The study showed that in all these cases varied psychiatric illnesses persisted following each war and often during the wars with PTSD representing the larger umbrella of symptoms discussed in this story.  All of the syndromes shared common symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, sleep disturbances, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating.  There is also a long history of government concern for veterans who experienced unexplained symptoms.  And there has been an effort by the government to set-up specialized health care centers, conduct research, and compensate veterans.  It was also reported in cases of Israeli soldiers that there were similar psychological problems among family members, an initial indication of the intergenerational impact of PTSD, the subject of this story.  Follow-up studies were also conducted using British military health records showing similar symptom clusters.
It was only after Vietnam that the government launched more aggressive research and defined all these syndromes and symptoms into one category, PTSD.  The majority of veterans in most previous wars starting with Vietnam ended up returning home without adequate diagnosis and treatment, leaving our combat soldiers to experiment on their own, which often led to a toxic culture at home and subsequent trauma experienced by family members.

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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