The invention of post-traumatic stress disorder and the social usefulness of a psychiatric category
- By: Derek Summerfield
A central assumption behind psychiatric diagnoses is that a disease has an objective existence in the world, whether discovered or not, and exists independently of the gaze of psychiatrists or anyone else. In other words, neolithic people had post.traumatic stress disorder as have people in all epochs since. However, the story of post-traumatic stress disorder is a telling example of the role of society and politics in the process of invention rather than discovery.
The diagnosis is a legacy of the American war in Vietnam and is a product of the post.war fortunes of the conscripted men who served there. They came home to find that they were being blamed for the war. Epithets like “babykiller” and “psychopath” were thrown at them by some who had watched on television the US military's atrocities against defenceless peasants. This reception was a primary factor in the well publicised difficulties - such as