PTSD Isn’t Something of the 21st Century; It’s As Old As We Are

Herotodus, the Greek historian, wrote that Spartan leader, Leonidas, after realizing they were mentally exhausted from fighting, dismissed his men from combat.

In Homer’s Iliad, the fierce warrior, Ajax, is said to be under Athena’s spell when slaughtering a herd of sheep he mistook to be the enemy.

Even William Shakespeare described symptoms of PTSD in his play, Henry IV Part 2, when Lady Percy observes Harry Percy having nightmares after traumatic events.

Essentially, wherever this is war, there is some form of PTSD. But that hasn’t always been what it’s referred to as. In fact, it took quite a while for the symptoms to be diagnosed as such: for each war, there was a new name, and new points of view on something that has transcended time.

On the pages that follow, you will find these names and descriptions, as well as videos that bring their respective eras to life.


(United States Civil War)

Soldier’s Heart, as thought by cardiologist Jacob Mendez da Costa, was believed to be strictly physiological. After the Civil War (1871), da Costa discovered that many soldiers suffered from “chest-thumping”, as well as anxiety and shortness of breath. At this point, what the soldiers experienced was not thought to stem much from psychological trauma. In fact, throughout the war, if a soldier showed any sort of “insanity” (as deemed by the doctors), they were simply discharged and left to wander home.

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