From Shell Shock to PTSD

From Shell Shock to PTSD

Military service is demanding, both physically and mentally. Military personnel have experienced difficulties returning to regular life after combat. Unfortunately, this hasn’t changed.

Military personnel (whether soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors or anything in between) often carry the burden of their trauma well after their service is over. Fortunately, a trauma therapist in Bethesda, MD, from a specialist like Lindsey Hoskins & Associates, can tell you that it’s possible to learn to cope with your trauma to live a happier, healthier life after combat.

Read on to learn more about our understanding of shell shock, combat stress, and PTSD – and see how a trauma therapist can help you retake control of your life.

Shell Shock

World War I was a notoriously traumatic conflict for all sides involved. The brutality of a new, mechanized war severely affected the men’s mental health in the trenches. Before long, the British Army began to diagnose those affected servicemen with “shell shock,” a catch-all term for a mysterious sort of trembling, shaking affliction seen most commonly in front-line soldiers. 

Shell shock came along with nightmares, hearing, and sight impairment, but these symptoms were mostly physical. Two psychologists, Charles S. Myers and William McDougall were up to connect the dots. Myers had been medically trained as a psychologist before the war, and although he was too old to serve in the military, his background was the perfect match for understanding shell shock.

Myers and McDougall examined soldiers diagnosed with shell shock and theorized that their physical symptoms were a reaction to repressed trauma. According to them, those tics, twitches, tremors, and shakes were all meant to help the affected soldier dissociate from his traumatic experience – and the best cure was to remove the soldier from the frontlines and treat him with a therapeutic approach.

It was a delicate balancing act: The soldier needed to be close enough to the war to remember it, but far enough that he felt safe. And at the time, the therapeutic approach typically boiled down to reassuring and encouraging the soldier to get back in a positive mental space. Myers was permitted to set up a few special units to care for shell-shocked soldiers, but it wasn’t to last.

Unfortunately, the military brass assumed soldiers suffering from shell shock were just cowards or trying to escape their duty. Although the higher-ups didn’t publicly approve of Myers’ methods, his legacy paints a different picture. To this day, militaries worldwide use his techniques to maintain mental health among their personnel, taking time to remove servicemembers from the front lines and providing mental care while deployed.

Present Day: Combat Stress and PTSD

Combat stress and PTSD are very real risks for returning military service members. The two may sound similar, but they’re very different. Combat stress can affect you for weeks or months after you’ve returned home, but it typically goes away. It can manifest as irritability, insomnia, or anger – but unlike PTSD, combat stress fades away.

On the other hand, PTSD can haunt you for several years. Servicemembers who suffer from PTSD often experience flashbacks and nightmares; without proper therapeutic help, their symptoms may never improve. Servicemembers suffering from PTSD may experience difficulty readjusting to civilian life and may also have difficulty performing their daily activities and routines.

While it may be difficult to diagnose whether you’re suffering from combat stress or post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s important to communicate with a qualified trauma therapist to get the help you need. Don’t hesitate to contact a trauma therapist today.