Stop the Stigma

January 29th, 2015


Last week, it was reported that texts dating back to 1300 BCE showed evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder.


Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University made this discovery while translating ancient Mesopotamian texts, according to the BBC. Previously, the first historical mentions of PTSD were accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the 400s BCE. However, the Mesopotamian texts reference symptoms associated with modern day PTSD throughout the Assyrian Dynasty.


The texts described soldiers “hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they’d killed in battle,” according to the BBC.


Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former psychological consultant for the Ministry of Defense, told the BBC, “As long as there has been civilization and as long as there have been warfare, there has been post-traumatic symptoms. It’s not a 21st century thing.”


So why, if we have several millennia of proof, is there still some doubt surrounding the existence of PTSD and the harm that comes as a direct result?


PTSD wasn’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until its third edition, which was published in 1980. This was a result of American soldiers returning from Vietnam with “shell shock,” as there was no term for PTSD at the time.


Post-traumatic stress disorder may result in intense anxiety, nightmares, brutal flashbacks and susceptibility to triggers that my cause moments of severe distress surrounding the trauma.


According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, seven or eight percent of the American population will have PTSD in their lifetime due to a severe trauma brought by bodily and/or emotional harm.


Fifteen percent of Vietnam War veterans were diagnosed with PTSD at some point during or after their time in the military. This compares to 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and 11 to 20 percent of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with PTSD, according to Veterans Affairs.


Despite these astounding statistics and billions of dollars in government spending going toward treatment for PTSD, a 2013 study done by the Institute of Medicine shows that many affected veterans receive “inadequate care,” according to The Guardian.


The study cites that treatments and therapies that were supported by the Department of Defense had “no clear scientific evidence base” in terms of successfully treating veterans with PTSD.


Why is it that the American government is incapable of protecting the men and women who have protected our country for decades?


Unfortunately, as happens with many mental illnesses, there is a stigma surrounding PTSD, especially where servicemen and servicewomen are concerned.


Those who doubt the existence of PTSD generally do so because it isn’t a tangible illness. Additionally, many veterans may be afraid to come forward with their symptoms because they do not want to be seen as weak as a result of the diagnosis.


While the American culture is starting to break free of similar stigmas surrounding mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, we aren’t to the same point with PTSD.


Wouldn’t you say, with evidence this illness has viably existed for over 4,000 years, that it is time to take it seriously?