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9781421426402
9781421426396
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PTSD

A Short History

Post-traumatic stress disorder—and its predecessor diagnoses, including soldier’s heart, railroad spine, and shell shock—was recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The psychic impacts of train crashes, wars, and sexual shocks among children first drew psychiatric attention. Later, enormous numbers of soldiers suffering from battlefield traumas returned from the world wars. It was not until the 1980s that PTSD became a formal diagnosis, in part to recognize the intense psychic suffering of Vietnam War veterans and women with trauma-related personality disorders. PTSD now occupies a dominant place in not only the mental health professions but also major social institutions and mainstream culture, making it the signature mental disorder of the early twenty-first century.

In PTSD, Allan V. Horwitz traces the fluctuations in definitions of and responses to traumatic psychic conditions. Arguing that PTSD, perhaps more than any other diagnostic category, is a lens for showing major historical changes in conceptions of mental illness, he surveys the conditions most likely to produce traumas, the results of those traumas, and how to evaluate the claims of trauma victims.

Illuminating a number of central issues about psychic disturbances more generally—including the relative importance of external stressors and internal vulnerabilities in causing mental illness, the benefits and costs of mental illness labels, and the influence of gender on expressions of mental disturbance—PTSD is a compact yet comprehensive survey. The book will appeal to diverse audiences, including the educated public, students across the psychological and social sciences, and trauma victims who are interested in socio-historical approaches to their condition.

Praise for Allan V. Horwitz’s Anxiety: A Short History

"The definitive overview of the history of anxiety."—Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"A lucid, erudite and brisk intellectual history driven by a clear and persuasive central argument."—Social History of Medicine

"An enlightening tour of anxiety, set at a sensible pace, with an exceptional scholar and writer leading the way."—Library Journal

About the Author

Allan V. Horwitz is a Board of Governors and Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. He is the author of Anxiety: A Short History, Creating Mental Illness, and The Loss of Sadness: Psychiatry’s Transformation of Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder.

Endorsementss

"The eminent medical sociologist Allan Horwitz has written a splendid account of our evolving views of the psychiatric consequences of trauma. Ranging from the Civil War to the twenty-first century, Horwitz's gripping narrative documents how history and culture have shaped PTSD as much as biology has."

- Richard J. McNally, Harvard University, author of Remembering Trauma

"Since its emergence as a mental health disorder in the 1960s, PTSD has expanded to become a diagnosis for a wide range of trauma-related problems. In this penetrating book, Allan Horwitz explores the social origins and consequences of PTSD, shining a new light on the relation of external stressors and internal vulnerabilities."

- Peter Conrad, Brandeis University, author of The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders

"This seminal work by Allan Horwitz provides a historical review of the controversies that preceeded psychiatry's modern day diagnosis of PTSD. In the context of sociocultural forces and timeless controversies, Horwitz brings to light the 'construction' and 'contentious history' of PTSD. Every professional who works in the field of posttraumatic stress studies and every interested layperson will benefit from reading this riveting book."

- Gerald M. Rosen, University of Washington (emeritus), coeditor of Clinician's Guide to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

"Trauma is a recent notion whose complex history culminated at the end of the twentieth century with its translation into psychiatric nosography as PTSD. In this comprehensive biography of the new clinical category, Allan Horwitz powerfully shows how it came to be an ambiguous signature of our time, between science and victimhood."

- Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, coauthor of The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood

Reviewss

"Horwitz draws together an impressive array of work to produce a balanced and concise analysis of PTSD that will serve as an insightful guide to the nature and evolution of the disorder."

- Edgar Jones, King's College London - Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"PTSD is an excellent survey: sharp, well-informed, probing and suitably skeptical of the epistemological status of a disorder that has become emblematic of our times. Horwitz is sympathetic to the suffering of trauma victims, but he is fully aware of the political, constructed nature of the underlying diagnosis, and the double-edged sword that it represents."

- Andrew Scull, PhD, University of California, San Diego - Journal of the History of Medicine & Allied Sciences

"In this eminently accessible history of PTSD, Horwitz skillfully guides readers through a history of traumatic responses, seamlessly incorporating a variety of technical sources, including medical research and legal thought on compensation... PTSD is an important contribution to the field, offering a powerful interpretative and analytic framework to revisit a well-documented history of trauma."

- Mical Raz, University of Rochester - Journal of American History

"Tracing its evolution from the mid-nineteenth century to today, Horwitz uses PTSD's distinct character as an effective wedge to open and explore deep questions regarding the relationship between culture and psychiatric diagnoses and the ways in which social, political, and economic concerns have shaped how we understand trauma. The end result is a well-written, succinct history that spins out many promising threads for future scholars to pursue. Indeed, I can think of no better introduction to PTSD. Any aspiring scholar would do well to begin her explorations into the topic here. For this reason, PTSD: A Short History takes its place among the must-reads on PTSD."

- Owen Whooley, University of New Mexico - Contemporary Sociology
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins Biographies of Disease
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