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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 44 (2002) 12, 803 - 811


How psychological trauma invaded ordinary life

J.E. Hovens, G.J. van der Ploeg

summary Today, almost any stressful event is seen as a potential cause for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this paper, we follow the track back to the origins of this concept. In the nineteenth century sexual abuse, train accidents and war experiences led to a 'hysterical' symptom complex that appears to be closely related to PTSD.The symptoms were interpreted as a subjective psychological processing of the strong emotional event. After the First World War in many front soldiers 'shell shock' was observed. For many, treatment aimed at the 'shell shock' had little effect. In the eighties of the twentieth century the concept of PTSD is introduced and it has been noticed again that the condition tends to become chronic. With the introduction of normal events as a cause for PTSD neither patient nor science seems to be served.

keywords history, ptsd, trauma