Agony and Ecstasy

Dec 18th 2008

Ecstasy may be good for those who can’t get over something truly horrible

“I’VE been shot in the leg. I’ve been beat up. But that’s pretty minor,” says a 41-year-old American security contractor who spent four years in Iraq. “But when you get a vehicle blown out from under you and ambushed by six or eight al-Qaedas, it does tend to affect one a little bit.”

With a broken back, two broken feet and neurological damage, the man, who asked that his name not be used, spent the next three months in hospitals in Iraq, Germany and America. But though he was physically on the mend by the start of this year, he found himself incapacitated. “I was having nightmares right off the bat,” he recalls. “I couldn’t do anything. Mostly, I’d just retreat to a room and not leave.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is the persistence of debilitating psychological symptoms. It can include flashbacks and nightmares, increased arousal in the form of insomnia, anger and an inability to concentrate, and impaired personal relationships. Although lasting psychological damage from horrific experiences has been recognised since time immemorial, it is only since 1980, when veterans were still experiencing stress from the Vietnam war, that PTSD has been a formal psychiatric diagnosis.

Read it on the Economist’s site…

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