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Recommended PTSD Resources

No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

Siegfried Sassoon (1917)

The best book by far on PTSD is Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. Shay correctly describes PTSD not as a disorder but as a neurological injury—one that really ought to be called Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. The injury results from a kind of deep learning, during which the brain is physically rewired by experience into configurations that may be adaptive in life-or-death circumstances, but that are maladaptive when carried over into ordinary life.

Update · 4 November 2011: The Army Vice Chief of Staff, General Peter Chiarelli, is now calling on the medical profession to formally change the name of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.

Although PTSD is often associated in popular writing with brief episodes of physical trauma (such as car accidents), the most debilitating forms of it often result from prolonged exposure to psychological trauma: the kind of trauma experienced by people who undergo long-term captivity or long-term psychological abuse, for example, whether or not physical violence is involved. These experiences can result in what has been called complex PTSD, as opposed to the “simple” (i.e., uncompounded, single-cause) PTSD that results from a sudden physical trauma. Complex PTSD is often connected with deep violations of elemental notions of “what’s right”—Shay’s translation the ancient Greek term themis. When individuals in positions of social trust, especially, violate elemental notions of “what’s right” at a personal level—through systematic lying, denial of reality, abuse of power, and the like—the result can be a disintegration of the victim’s entire psychological sense of the world.

The best blog by far on PTSD is Lily Casura’s Healing Combat Trauma (healingcombattrauma.com). She covers news, treatment methods, literature and history, and many other PTSD-related items both online and off. Some her most recent posts include:

PTSD now receives a fair amount of news coverage, some of it substantive and some of it superficial. (For an exemplary news essay see “Losing Private Dwyer” by Lawrence Downes.) Recent PTSD headlines can be found via Google News.


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