Mental Health Monday–PTSD, A History

Last week, I discussed the symptoms of PTSD. Arlee Bird (writer and blogger–Tossing It Out) had a great follow up question.

When did the term PTSD come into regular use?

Lee is completely correct in recalling that the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” wasn’t coined until 1980 when the American Psychiatric Association added it to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III.

But “PTSD” has been around for far longer than 30 some odd years.

Heck, it probably goes back to the dawn of time!


In the Civil War, PTSD was known as “Soldier’s Heart.”

In World War I, PTSD was known as “Combat Fatigue” or “Shell Shock”

In World War II, PTSD was known as “Battle Fatigue” or “Gross Stress Reaction”

Unfortunately, prior to PTSD being called PTSD, it was thought the symptoms indicated cowardice or personal weakness.

It wasn’t until after the Vietnam War when people started taking notice. Called “Post-Vietnam Syndrome,” the new designation allowed Vietnam Veterans to push the medical and military to recognize it as a real disorder.

A big thanks to Psychiatric Disorders (d0t) com for this fascinating information!

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday post and Sarah’s The Strangest Situation. Remember, these posts are for writing purposes ONLY and are NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

Happy Writing!

16 comments on “Mental Health Monday–PTSD, A History

  1. Sarah Fine says:

    Some of that stigmatization and marginalization is STILL going on. Even though we have a term for it, and diagnosis and care have improved immensely, treatment for soldiers with PTSD–and especially screening and diagnosis–is still not quite what it should be. Thanks for the history, Laura!

  2. Doris says:

    I read your prior post, and I really enjoyed this follow up. This is a very interesting information. Thank you for your research and the time to share!


  3. Sheri Larsen says:

    Thanks for giving us a date. I almost think I remember when the phrase became all the buzz. I was in 5th or 6th grade. 🙂

  4. I didn’t realize it had all those different names. But at least it finally became recognized as PTSD, because based on those names, it was only associated with war and not other traumas, such as rape.

  5. roguemutt says:

    I wonder what they called it back in ancient Roman times?

  6. Arlee Bird says:

    Thank you for this excellent follow-up. I’ve heard of all the other terms except “soldier’s heart”. But as Stina points out these are only associated with war. What about traumatic stress that might have been associated with disasters or personal events such as rape? Was any stress associated with things other than war?

    In my WIP my character is experiencing a sort of trauma associated with a repetitive exposure to a highly disruptive event that occurs in his life. It strikes me that his condition would be similar, but maybe there is some other condition that would fall under this.


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  7. Vicki Tremper says:

    Wow, cool. I’ve heard those terms before but hadn’t put it together that they were the precursors of PTSD. Thanks!

  8. Oh I love the picture of the one soldier holding the other one. It’s very loving. That’s how men should treat and nurture each other in my opinion. Maybe it will happen more now that times are changing and people are recognizing that they’ve been serving along with gays for a long time now and that this isn’t a bad thing at all.

  9. Leigh Moore says:

    ugh. I hate the idea of our young men being sent off to war so much that it just breaks my heart to know that PTSD used to be considered a sign of weakness or cowardice. I’d like to see whoever thought that go to war…

    but anyway, great info. Sad circumstances, but this is all useful stuff for us writers! :o) ❤

  10. I’d heard of shell shock – in fact, I called it that for years (and I’m not THAT old!) – but I’d forgotten or hadn’t heard the other names.

    Great follow-up!

  11. LydiaK says:

    That is fascinating. The history of medicine is always amazing to me. Great, great post!

  12. Indigo says:

    Interesting learning all the various names PTSD has undergone. I’m also glad the name doesn’t just imply a war-time affliction. I know a lot of abuse & trauma victims suffer from PTSD. (Hugs) Indigo

  13. Kerri says:

    Interesting the different names for PTSD. Good topic. Thanks for sharing with us.

  14. Krispy says:

    Thanks for the history lesson! It’s always interesting to see how terms evolve.

  15. J E Fritz says:

    The various names are interesting. It’s like people forget about it between wars and have to learn to diagnose it all over again. How sad. I’m glad it’s more recognized now but it still has a long way to go.

  16. lenny says:

    hi dr laura! wow for sure that picture got me. i learned a bunch new words about that ptsd stuff. at where my brother works they got a special program going for va guys and all of them got ptsd and its way hard for them to deal out cause it gets in the way of their life mostly every day.
    …hugs from lenny

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