PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, has been increasingly recognized by the medical community, and was admitted to the status of a psychiatric disorder in 1980. It was first recognized as “shell shock” in combat soldiers.
The movie, “Patton”, featured one such case; abusive behavior of a soldier by Patton hit the newspapers, and he was sidelined for the start of “ operation overlord“. Since the majority of soldiers were not incapacitated , Patton thought the soldier was cowardly.
As an allergist, I was sent one case of PTSD; Believe it or not, the referring physician thought it might be an “allergy”, so little was it understood.
Now, memory consolidation is considered to be one of its dimensions. An incompletely consolidated memory allows flashbacks to be considered the real thing.
PTSD is partly under genetic control, since identical twins are more more likely to experience the condition. Anxiety and other psychiatric problems such as depression and substance abuse can be associated. Women are more likely to experience it. Individuals with low cortisol, elevated norepinephrine or a small amygdala or more likely to develop PTSD. Even children can be involved if they have been abused physically.
Any kind of a frightening experience, especially sexual, can be a cause.
Symptoms can include recurrent distressing memories, flashbacks, or nightmares of the traumatic event, or emotional distress and anxiety on exposure to a similar experience.
Treatment can include medication for depression, but benzodiazepines should be avoided. Cognitive behavioral therapy has enjoyed some success, but treatment is generally difficult. Please consult the attached Cleveland clinic article for more information.