It’s often called “shell shock”, but that is incorrect as PTSD extends far beyond the combat scenario. Any form of extreme trauma—especially when life threatening—can cause PTSD. Exposure to such trauma has been part of the human story since we evolved as a species and were threatened by saber toothed tigers and drastic environmental change. Achilles suffered from it as did Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

When the afflicted remember the event that caused PTSD, a portion of the brain is activated and causes them to suffer severe insomnia, kaleidoscopic nightmares, panic attacks, and other characteristic symptoms. I have listened to many patients describe their nightmares as being “too real”. Many patients become reclusive and too many resort to suicide to end their misery.

Although psychiatric intervention and drug therapy can help the afflicted, cures are probably rare. But medical intervention is mandatory to prevent debilitating suffering and the patient’s propensity to resort to suicide.

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