Posttraumatic stress disorder: a history and a critique

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Oct;1208:67-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05699.x.


Although posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is sometimes considered to be a relatively new diagnosis, as the name first appeared in 1980, the concept of the disorder has a very long history. That history has often been linked to the history of war, but the disorder has also been frequently described in civilian settings involving natural disasters, mass catastrophes, and serious accidental injuries. The diagnosis first appeared in the official nomenclature when Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-I was published in 1952 under the name gross stress reaction. It was omitted, however, in the next edition in 1968, after a long period of relative peace. When DSM-III was developed in the mid-1980s the recent occurrence of the Vietnam War provoked a more thorough examination of the disorder. PTSD was defined as a stress disorder that is a final common pathway occurring as a consequence of many different types of stressors, including both combat and civilian stress. The definition of PTSD has filled an important niche in clinical psychiatry. Its definition continues to raise important questions about the relationship between a stressor, the individual experiencing it, and the characteristic symptoms.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel / history
  • Military Personnel / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / history*
  • Warfare