I was treated for PTSD, and so am overly familiar with it, but many of the accounts I've read by scholars over the years often don't quite ring true. The except is the brilliant Dr Jonathan Shay (see also), probably because he is a real doctor who has done some amazing work with combat veterans - rather than just another academic theorising from an ivory tower.
I find talking about ancient sources helps bring people out of their shell (pun intended), as in group therapy they tend to think "well if Achilles had it, and he was pretty big as a soldier, maybe it's okay if I have it too" - yes it is simplistic, but sometimes simple works best. If you want to see some of the stories I've used, then read this post - it's also about as sensible an introduction to the subject you'll find. I will revise it again soon, as so many people provided interesting feedback.
PTSD is misunderstood by the public, who associate it with gunmen going on rampages - in fact this tends to be the exception rather than the norm, and I prefer the term 'shell shock' as that better described most people who are treated.
The good news from Jonathan Eaton's blog is that Shay's work is going to be made into a documentary: Imperium Sine Fine: Odysseus in America Documentary
The documentary's web site - Odysseus in America - has several trailers, which are worth watching. I can't wait until it opens in my local theatre (might skip the popcorn and just bring Kleenex).
One point I find interesting is that Eaton has some strong views about PTSD not having been an issue in Antiquity ...
For example in Eaton's review of: Melchior, A. 'Caesar in Vietnam: Did Roman soldiers suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?' Greece & Rome 58.2 (2011) - I strongly disagree with several points:
They need not fear suicide bombers, stray explosives or IEDs. Melchior highlights a recent study of PTSD symptoms in soldiers returning from Iraq ... The study suggests that there is a correlation between concussive injuries and the occurence of PTSD symptoms. Concussive injuries are clearly linked to the use of explosives. Concussive injuries would probably not have been a particularly common type of injury for Roman soldiers, compared to slash wounds, for example. Could this indicate that the prevalence of PTSD as a result of combat is directly linked to the use of explosives in modern warfare?I, for example, have never had a concussive injury ... and although PTSD tends to get bandied about a bit too loosely as a term, I was diagnosed with it by a real consultant psychiatrist (rather than a historian).
Eaton is stuck up on the point in his review of an article by Thomas Heebøll-Holm about PTSD and Medieval Knights:
recent research has tentatively suggested a link between PTSD and the use of explosives in modern warfare. Initial statistical analysis indicates that soldiers who have experienced concussion as a result of an explosive device are more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD. This would therefore make PTSD far rarer in the ancient world, when explosive devices played a much smaller role in combat operations.Same claim, based on the same "tentative" study ... and still not, in my opinion, correct. Eaton's research might have been on the ancient army, but my experience with modern soldiers leads me to conclude the opposite. I knew a general with PTSD, who probably hadn't been near a bomb or IED in decades.
Our military is too important to be discussed in ivory towers in this way - they need treatment first, so that our men and women can aeither return to serve or be in a position to make another life choice.