Posttraumatic stress disorder  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual's ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen post traumatic stress (also known as acute stress response). Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Cultural references

Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist for the Boston Department of Veterans' Affairs Outpatient Clinic was treating soldiers who suffered from PTSD. He was struck by the similarity of their war experiences to Homer's account of Achilles in the Iliad. He also believes Hotspur in William Shakespeares Henry IV, Part 1 is portrayed as a person suffering from PTSD.

J. R. R. Tolkien served in World War I. It is believed that he portrayed Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings as a person suffering from PTSD.

Dorothy L. Sayers's fictional sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey suffers from PTSD as a result of horrors witnessed in World War I, and has a particularly affecting attack of flashbacks in Whose Body?, the first book in which he stars.

In recent decades, with the concept of trauma, and PTSD in particular, becoming just as much a cultural phenomenon as a medical or legal one, artists have engaged the issue in their work. Many movies, such as First Blood, Birdy, Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven & Earth deal with PTSD. It is an especially popular subject amongst "war veteran" films, often portraying Vietnam war veterans suffering from extreme PTSD and having difficulties adjusting to civilian life.

A very realistic depiction showed on screen was by Christian Bale in Harsh Times. He suffers from PTSD from the horrors of war.

The character Nathan Algren from The Last Samurai was suffering from PTSD after had taken part of a massacre of Native Americans before he joined the Samurai in their rebellion.

The song "Just Another Day" by 80s new wave group Oingo Boingo ambiguously references posttramaumatic stress disorder.

In more recent work, an example is that of Krzysztof Wodiczko who teaches at MIT and who is known for interviewing people and then projecting these interviews onto large public buildings. Wodiczko aims to bring trauma not merely into public discourse but to have it contest the presumed stability of cherished urban monuments. His work has brought to life issues such as homelessness, rape, and violence. Other artists who engage the issue of trauma are Everlyn Nicodemus of Tanzania and Milica Tomic of Serbia.

George Carlin comments on the various incarnations of PTSD terminology on his 1990 album Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. He traces the progression of what he views as euphemisms, which followed "shell shock" in World War I: "battle fatigue" in World War II, "operational exhaustion" in the Korean War, and finally PTSD, a clinical, hyphenated term, in the Vietnam War. "The pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I'll bet you if we'd have still been calling it shell shock, some of those Viet Nam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time."

Some people believe that sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have been stereotyped in popular culture. Many dramatic television shows have featured "psycho veteran" characters. Most recently, ABC's three daytime soap operas All My Children, One Life To Live, and General Hospital have each featured an Iraq War veteran who suffers from PTSD, and two of those three characters were written as being antisocial and prone to violence, while the other killed a man in defense (after having subdued him and he was no longer a threat) during a moment of stress.

Also, the Happy Tree Friends character Flippy exhibits some PTSD because of hearing sounds that reminds him of the Vietnam War. This results in the gruesome deaths of the other characters and sometimes even himself. </blockquote>

It was the subtext of the 2008 novel BROKEN: One Soldier's Unexpected Journey Home, by Chicago author and PTSD survivor W.C. Turck.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Posttraumatic stress disorder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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