In 1914, doctors working in military hospitals first recognized a condition commonplace among soldiers after participating in battles. While symptoms first included lack of concentration, giddiness, irritibility and tiredness, many of the soldiers eventually suffered complete mental breakdowns, prohibiting them from returning to battle. At the time, they theorized the condition was caused by exploding gunfire creating a vacuum which disturbed the cerebral -spinal fluid.
It is heartbreaking to watch a shell-shock case. The terror is indescribable. The flesh on their faces shakes in fear, and their teeth continually chatter. Shell-shock was brought about in many ways; loss of sleep, continually being under heavy shell fire, the torment of the lice, irregular meals, nerves always on end, and the thought always in the man’s mind that the next minute was going to be his last. (Corporal Henry Gregory served with the 119 Machine Gun Company,circa 1929)
The term ‘shell shock’ was coined in 1917 by a Medical Officer called Charles Myers. It was also known as “war neurosis”, “combat stress” and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
At first shell shock was thought to be caused by soldiers being exposed to exploding shells.
Medical staff started to realise that there were deeper causes. Doctors soon found that many men suffering the symptoms of shell shock without having even been in the front lines.
A history of PTSD from the Civil War through Iraq and the current use organic mental health processes to deal with PTSD in Iraq.