Unity or Anarchy? : A Historical Search for the Psychological Consequences of Psychotrauma

The field of traumatic stress is often referred to as being in a state of controversy and lack of continuity. Throughout history, disputes repeatedly centered on defining the psychological consequences of severe adverse events and on their causes. Even to this day this is current. To understand these controversies, an extensive historical literature review is presented of how mental consequences of trauma have been described in history, of the circumstances in which this took place, and of the disputes that have influenced the conceptualization of these mental responses.


We found psychotrauma always being surrounded by controversy. Significant heterogeneity in symptom expression has been described over the centuries to this day. Some symptoms appeared steadily over many decades, but often each time period showed its own core symptoms. At syndrome level, we found an acute condition, one with longer duration, and a complex condition. Also here, definitions varied over the decades. Finally, causes have always been debated, such as biological, psychological, socio-economic, cultural, political, or legal. To better reflect the described ongoing variation in symptomatology, a more flexible diagnostic approach is proposed with a combination of both staging and subtyping that offers room for a more flexible, symptom-oriented, and personalized perspective.

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Ruud A. Jongedijk, Paul A. Boelen, Jeroen W. Knipscheer, and Rolf J. Kleber | 2023
In: Review of General Psychology : ISSN: 1089-2680 | 27 | 3 | 303-319
Diagnosis, Partner Abuse, Post-disaster, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychoanalytic Theory, Psychotrauma, PTSD (DSM-5), PTSD (DSM-III), PTSD (en), PTSD (ICD-11), Research Needs, Sexual Harassment, War