Earl Finkler

There is a new book out about a fairly long-standing psychological disorder for American veterans: “The Evil Hours. A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” 

The author—former Marine and journalist David J. Morris—says the disorder has likely been around since the Civil War and World War I, but then it was just thought of as cowardice. 

But then a group of Vietnam vets opposed to the war started speaking up and demanded more attention and treatment for PTSD. “Without them, PTSD as we know it would not exist,“ Morris writes.

What is it? According to the book, it is “a condition characterized by hyper arousal, emotional numbness and recurring flashbacks.” Also that it is “a complex condition that affects the entirety of a person’s life and social support system.”

“Why does the world seem so different since I got back from Iraq?” he asks. “Why do I feel so out of place now? What does one do with the knowledge gleaned from a near-death experience?”

He talks about how soldiers in combat try to deal with a life-threatening situation—through dissociation. They told him, “It was like I was watching a movie.”

Eventually, trauma becomes routine: “As long as we exist, the universe will be scheming to wipe us out,” he wrote, explaining a PTSD mind-set. Even now, back home, he still has difficulty taking a shower, getting into an elevator, or going somewhere there is smoke.”

The difficulties he describes with PTSD are widespread, he said. “According to the latest estimates, nearly 8 percent of all Americans—twenty-eight million people—will suffer from post-traumatic stress at some time in their lives.”

According to the Veterans Administration, which spends more annually on PTSD than any organization in the world, PTSD is the number-one health concern of American military veterans, regardless of when they served.”

And how will Morris keep going? I had a chance to interview him recently, and he outlined his philosophy:

“To fully appreciate the joys of this world one must understand how temporary they are and how fragile human existence is.”