155 Relly Steet, Sunnyside, Pretoria.  012 344 4000

 Follow Us

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a checked history, often reflecting the convenience of the times. It has been discovered and lost, proclaimed and debunked repeatedly over the years. One of the early references to what appears to be symptoms that would fit in with a diagnosis of PTSD today, appears in Homer’s Iliad probably written around 800 BC.  It has gone under various names, from bomb shock to concentration camp syndrome, from railway spine to rape syndrome and so on. The term posttraumatic stress disorder was coined in the DSM III after much lobbying by Vietnam Veterans and anti-war psychiatrists. Getting the diagnosis, meant the disorder could be researched. The symptoms underwent a major revision to include civilian trauma in 1987 with DSM IIIR. This was retained for DSM IV and DSM IVTR. Another major revision took place in 2013 with DSM 5. Here an attempt was made to stop the diagnosis slide that had been happening where at time the diagnosis was being used for experiences such as genocide and for hearing dirty jokes at work. Clearly a problem. PTSD is one of the few diagnoses (there are a few others) that are seen to develop due to a life event(s). The diagnosis is only made a month after the traumatic event; prior to that acute stress disorder can be made. There is still controversy around it. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian General who was in Rwanda during genocide, suggests it should be called posttraumatic injury. There are also psychiatrists who have never been happy with the diagnosis and have said that the symptoms are well accounted for by other diagnosis. They insist it is a made-up diagnosis. However, it is now firmly established as a diagnosis and people who have it will find the suggestion that it is not real, laughable.