Origins of PTSD
The diagnosis of PTSD has been used since 1980 to classify difficult symptoms presenting in an individual long term after a traumatic experience. PTSD is most well-known for causing extreme symptoms in those returning home from military service. While PTSD has become very common in today’s times, it is a relatively recent diagnosis term. To understand how PTSD came to be, we will take a look at the history of PTSD in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual).
PTSD and the DSM From 1952 to 2019 (Present)
The DSM is a manuscript used by professionals in the field of mental health. The DSM assists in patients diagnoses based on existing symptoms. Created in 1952, the DSM has undergone many revisions and additions based on new research and discoveries in modern medicine. While PTSD was not added to the DSM until 1980 in version DSM-III, symptoms experienced by those suffering with PTSD have been recorded for hundreds of years.
History of PTSD Diagnosis
1952 – The DSM-I, developed by the American Psychiatric Association, was a tool assisting in the diagnosis of mental health disorders. PTSD was not listed in this early version. In the DSM-I, the term gross stress reaction was used for people who displayed symptoms after a traumatic event. Common traumatic events in these early days of the DSM included being a victim of a disaster or participating in a war. The gross stress reaction diagnosis, however, did not account for long term symptoms of six months of more. The diagnosis was then removed from the following DSM version.
1968 – With the rollout of the DSM-II, a new term was created called adjustment reaction to adult life. This explained PTSD-like reactions from trauma caused by three types of events:
- Fear due to combat in the military,
- Suicidal thoughts with an unwanted pregnancy,
- Ganser Syndrome – Determined by incorrect responses to questions, in death sentence prison cases.
While this was a minor improvement over the explanation given in the DSM-1, the DSM-II fell short on offering an in-depth assessment of the symptoms lingering in many trauma victims. The common types of trauma and symptoms experienced post trauma by victims were yet to be acknowledged.
1980 – The term PTSD was added to the DSM-III. After years of research, the term PTSD was established due to developments made by observing behavioral patterns in patients. The link between traumas occurring due to war and PTSD were obvious. Between Vietnam veterans, holocaust survivors, sexual trauma victims, and others, PTSD symptoms were visible more and more. Originally, PTSD was not thought to be a commonly found disorder. However, over multiple revisions, the current DSM-V version does make it clear that PTSD is relatively common.
2019 – PTSD has become so prevalent in American society that the classification has been changed. PTSD is no longer considered an anxiety disorder in the DSM-V. Listed under “Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders”, PTSD has been expanded to include multiple categories of symptoms.
Symptoms That Warrant a PTSD Diagnosis
- Re-experiencing or reliving the traumatic event.
- Avoiding similar situations or triggers of the trauma.
- Having negative beliefs and feelings not present prior to a traumatic event.
- Hyper-reactive, overreacting, or being “keyed up”.
Some of the above symptoms are common in a person who has experienced a trauma. However, if a person is displaying all four symptoms, a diagnosis of PTSD is likely to occur.
So, what is the best course of action for someone suffering from trauma related symptoms or PTSD?