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The History and How Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is Conceptualized in Society

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Evaluating the diagnosis of PTSD, which include duration (Criterion E) of more than one month; and Criterion F: functional significance (APA, 2000). The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) has a similar diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder under code number F43. Namely, the symptoms arise as a response to a stressful event or situation, which can either be brief or involve long-term exposure, of an exceptionally threatening nature. Some of the key differences between the DSM diagnosis of PTSD and that of the ICD include the ICD specifies that the situation would likely cause pervasive distress in a member of the general population and that a probable diagnosis of PTSD should not be made if there is evidence the symptoms did not arise within 6 months of the traumatic exposure (ICD-10, 1992).

So, now that we are aware of the differences and diagnostic criteria, how long has it been around? Having been referred to by over 80 different names, the history is a bit challenging to track down. Over the years some of the names it has gone by include Nostalgia, Homesickness, Estar Roto (which means “ to be broken” in Spanish), Soldier’ s Heart, Neurasthenia/Hysteria (during the Victorian era), Compensation Sickness, Railway Spine (during the boom of the railway era, where horrific injuries were commonplace), Shell Shock (during WWI), Combat Exhaustion (during WWII and the Korean War), and Stress Syndrome, when it was finally introduced to the DSM in 1952.

According to Gordon Holmes, one of the more influential members involved in diagnosing PTSD during the early 1900s, close to 15% of soldiers in the British Expeditionary Force suffered from ‘ nervous and mental shock’ symptoms (Macleod, 2004).

It was observed by Holmes that the incidence of what was then termed shell shock (present-day PTSD), nearly crippled the British Army during the Battle of Somme in 1916, accounting for over 40%, or 24,000 soldiers. The prevalence of comorbidity is evident when considering that among individuals who are in inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation centres, roughly half of the patients also meet the criteria for PTSD.

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