Did PTSD Exist in Ancient Times?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a mental health condition that affects people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This can include events such as natural disasters, accidents, physical or sexual assault, terrorism, and combat. The symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance behaviors, and hyperarousal.

The question of whether PTSD existed in ancient times is a complex one. While the term “PTSD” did not exist until the 20th century, there are historical accounts that suggest that people in ancient times experienced symptoms similar to those of PTSD.

One of the earliest recorded accounts of what could be considered PTSD comes from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. In his account of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, he describes an Athenian soldier who was struck blind after witnessing the death of his comrades in battle. This could be interpreted as a form of psychological trauma resulting from exposure to violence and death.

Similarly, the Roman poet Virgil wrote about soldiers who were haunted by traumatic memories in his epic poem The Aeneid. In Book II, he describes the Trojan soldier Acestes who was traumatized by witnessing the fall of Troy and was unable to sleep or eat due to his distress.

Moving forward in time to medieval Europe, there are numerous accounts of knights suffering from “battle fatigue” after participating in military campaigns. In some cases, these knights were described as being unable to return to battle due to their psychological distress.

During World War I and II, doctors and psychologists began to recognize and diagnose what they called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue” among soldiers returning from war. These symptoms included anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks – all symptoms that we now associate with PTSD.

In conclusion, while the term “PTSD” did not exist in ancient times or even up until relatively recently in history, there is evidence that people in the past experienced symptoms similar to those of PTSD. The exact nature of these symptoms may have been interpreted differently depending on the cultural context, but it is clear that trauma has been a part of human experience for millennia. By recognizing and addressing the effects of trauma throughout history, we can gain a deeper understanding of how PTSD impacts individuals and societies today.