Post-traumatic stress disorder—and its predecessor diagnoses, including soldier’s heart, railroad spine, and shell shock—was recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The psychic impacts of train crashes, wars, and sexual shocks among children first drew psychiatric attention. Later, enormous numbers of soldiers suffering from battlefield traumas returned from the world wars. It was not until the 1980s that PTSD became a formal diagnosis, in part to recognize the intense psychic suffering of Vietnam War veterans and women with trauma-related personality disorders. PTSD now occupies a dominant place in not only the mental health professions but also major social institutions and mainstream culture, making it the signature mental disorder of the early twenty-first century.
In PTSD, Allan V. Horwitz traces the fluctuations in definitions of and responses to traumatic psychic conditions. Arguing that PTSD, perhaps more than any other diagnostic category, is a lens for showing major historical changes in conceptions of mental illness, he surveys the conditions most likely to produce traumas, the results of those traumas, and how to evaluate the claims of trauma victims.
Illuminating a number of central issues about psychic disturbances more generally—including the relative importance of external stressors and internal vulnerabilities in causing mental illness, the benefits and costs of mental illness labels, and the influence of gender on expressions of mental disturbance—PTSD is a compact yet comprehensive survey. The book will appeal to diverse audiences, including the educated public, students across the psychological and social sciences, and trauma victims who are interested in socio-historical approaches to their condition.
Praise for Allan V. Horwitz’s Anxiety: A Short History
"The definitive overview of the history of anxiety."—Bulletin of the History of Medicine
"A lucid, erudite and brisk intellectual history driven by a clear and persuasive central argument."—Social History of Medicine
"An enlightening tour of anxiety, set at a sensible pace, with an exceptional scholar and writer leading the way."—Library Journal
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