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The History of PTSD and Its Treatment

The History of PTSD and Its Treatment

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From lobotomies to talk therapy, the last few centuries have seen many ways to diagnose and treat the symptoms of PTSD. As mental health treatment progresses and finds new ways to combat PTSD, people are becoming aware of the true nature of this complex diagnosis.

To understand how to effectively treat PTSD, we must first understand the origins of the PTSD diagnosis.

The Rise of PTSD

Over the last 200 years, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder “PTSD” were known by many different names. The symptoms, now referred to as PTSD, were diagnosed throughout American history using terms like:

  • “Shell Shock”
  • “Gross Stress Reaction”
  • “Adjustment Reaction to Adult Life”

To investigate how PTSD and its symptoms became so problematic, let’s journey through history.

What Is PTSD

PTSD, short for “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, is a diagnosis used to explain a certain set of symptoms. Most individuals given a PTSD diagnosis have experienced a trauma, resulting in ongoing, prolonged symptoms. In present times, anything from a car accident to witnessing a horrific event could lead to PTSD.

What Causes PTSD

  • Military Combat
  • Natural Disasters, such as earthquakes or tornadoes
  • Terrorist attack
  • Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault or robbery
  • Serious accidents or witnessing violent deaths
  • Prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
  • A diagnosis of a life-threatening condition

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:

  1. Fear due to combat in the military,
  2. Suicidal thoughts with an unwanted pregnancy,
  3. 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

  1. Re-experiencing or reliving the traumatic event.
  2. Avoiding similar situations or triggers of the trauma.
  3. Having negative beliefs and feelings not present prior to a traumatic event.
  4. 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?

Treating PTSD

PTSD will commonly develop in an individual, following a frightening or dangerous event. Over the days or weeks after the traumatic event, reactions to triggering sounds or circumstances begin to manifest. PTSD, left untreated, will sometimes lead to the presence of extreme anxiety, fear, or depression. The first step in treating PTSD is in understanding the early warning signs.

Early Recognition of PTSD

Following a trauma, many individuals become trapped in the memory of the event. Being stuck in a sort of “fight or flight” behavioral pattern, physical and mental reactions will begin to develop. The aspect that makes PTSD become a potential diagnosis is when the reactions to triggers or “fight or flight” mentality continue over a prolonged period of time. Luckily, for those suffering, PTSD treatment has come a long way over the last 200 years, offering hope to many that suffer from the disorder.

The History of PTSD Treatment

Historians, looking all the way back to the Civil War, have seen overwhelming signs of PTSD in reports of the war, and soldiers’ letters to families. In the 1800s, mental health problems were shunned. Individuals with mental conditions were either left to their own devices or put in an asylum. For those experiencing trauma related symptoms following the war, there was no real diagnosis or treatment available. Reports of soldiers returning home and losing their minds or becoming isolated were common.

After 200 years of research into PTSD and its causes, victims of the disorder are finally finding effective help.

Common Treatment for PTSD

For decades, the standard treatment for PTSD would be therapy and a prescription of psychiatric medications. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, hospitalization may be required. If an individual’s PTSD symptoms caused extreme paranoia, fear, or sleeplessness, institutionalization was likely.

Cure for PTSD?

For the last 40 years, there was really no cure offered for PTSD, only treatments to mitigate the debilitating symptoms. Victims of traumas, natural disasters, war, or terrorist attacks would be told they need medications long term in order to fight off the more extreme flare ups. Only recently, has natural and holistic PTSD treatments been recognized as effective.

A Natural Approach to PTSD Treatment

Many of those affected by PTSD, or other mental health disorders, find the commonly prescribed medication-based treatments hard to agree to. Whether an individual is sensitive to the pharmaceuticals, or not wanting to become reliant upon them long term, many people seek medication alternatives.

The Alternative to Meds Center philosophy is that most individuals, when given the proper support, can recover from PTSD. The type of support needed is in relation to a person’s brain chemistry and professional guidance surrounding the trauma.

ATMC offers one of the only programs in full Neurotransmitter Rehabilitation, known to help relieve issues including:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Medication side effects
  • Medication withdrawal
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How to Recover from PTSD


Education about PTSD helps patients understand how best to achieve and maintain optimal brain function. Individual counseling and therapy are an important aspect as well, but without helping the brain recover, long term healing is hard to achieve.

As the brain heals, we incorporate long term strategies to the individual’s lifestyle and health regimen. Rather than relying strictly on psychiatric medications and counseling, we treat the entire individual. Licensed, medical practitioners review each patient’s history for an in depth look at potential, underlying causes of PTSD. With healthy diet, nutrient therapies, neurotoxin removal treatments, and many adjunctive treatments, ATMC provides an unparalleled, comprehensive, PTSD treatment program.

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