Still in Saigon: What is PTSD?

PTSD was first introduced as a psychological disorder which first appeared as a diagnosed disorder in 1980. PTSD did not simply come into existence at that point, but became classified. Prior to 1980 it was often referred to as shellshock and was not treated. In 1980 the DSM-III was published and for the first time PTSD was listed as a disorder (Anxiety Disorders).

Its diagnostic criteria included, an event that nearly everyone would find traumatic, a re-experiencing of the trauma, a “numbing” to the world, and the presence of 2 or more symptoms of PTSD not present before the event (Anxiety Disorders). Many veterans fit this criteria. The war was an experience traumatic to any involved. Veterans often experienced flashbacks, nightmares, or the feeling of re-experiencing the event when certain stimuli are present. For example, in the song, the singer says “Every summer when it rains/I smell the jungle, I hear the planes (Charlie Daniels Band).” This is an example of the stimulus bringing about an experiencing of the event. The third criteria was set as decreased interest in normal activities, restricted emotions, and “detachment” from others (Anxiety Disorders). Lastly, the list of symptoms included hyper alertness, disturbed sleep, survivor’s guilt, memory and concentration disruption, avoidance of activities similar to trauma, and worsening of symptoms when involved in such activities (Anxiety Disorders). Many of these symptoms were common amongst Vietnam veterans. For example flashbacks were and emotional disconnection were common.

It is also important to note there are 2 sub types of PTSD. Type one is acute PTSD where the symptoms occur less than six months after the event and last less than 6 months (Anxiety Disorders). Soldiers very well could have suffered from this during their time in combat. The men who had “the thousand yard stare” were likely experiencing acute PTSD. The second type is chronic or delayed PTSD where the symptoms lasted 6 or more months or the onset was 6+ months after the event (Anxiety Disorders). Generally speaking, the veterans at home likely suffered from the 2nd type.

“Anxiety Disorders.” <i>DSM III: Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders</i>. 3rd ed. Washington: American Psychiatric Association, 1980. 238-. Print.

Charlie Daniels Band. “Still in Saigon.” Windows. By Dan Daley. 1982. Compact Disc.

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