What if PTSD is More Physical than Psychological?


Link to NYT article

I can’t pick up an excerpt, but the article is about research on the brains of soldiers exposed to bomb blasts, and they’re discovering a physical effect in the brain, sort of like CTE, but a completely separate type of injury.

This would be in many ways bittersweet need to those whose loved ones have died as the result of the apparent effects, but also allow for a form of treatment to be sought and given. Additionally, many soldiers who try to tough it out may now be willing to get help, or ordered by the military.


Ultimately, the line between physical and psychological might end up being so thin as to be nonexistent.



Thank you for posting this interesting article. I really hope that as you note the thought this has a physical cause and is not simply a “mental issue” which is still stigmatized in society will spur more veterans to get help.

God Bless our Veterans and may we strive as a country to provide better care for them than some are receiving currently.



Good article. Thanks for bringing it up.


I think this makes a great deal of sense and falls in line with most of the recent research on PTSD as well as complex developmental trauma (that’s the kind of trauma that’s not a single event, but an ongoing series of traumatic events when young – think child abuse). For example, neurofeedback which is a kind of rewiring of the brain works fairly well in treating trauma – and if literally rewiring the brain’s connections reduce PTSD symptoms, that certainly suggests that the problem is partly physical (a problem with connections?).

The case of soldiers with PTSD is different than children who were abused, because of the effects of blasts. But I still think that trauma itself, regardless of the source, can have a physical impact on the brain, and I think recent research on trauma is headed that direction. For those who are interested, Bessel Van der Kolk’s book “The Body Keeps the Score” is a fascinating look at the deep link between our brains and our bodies and the way people respond to trauma physically and psychologically.


Didn’t they used to call it “Shell Shock” rather than PTSD? That older term seemed to indicate more direct correlation to a blast.


Actually, there is good evidence that severe trauma can “rewire” the brain and even prevent it from developing normally, if the trauma is sustained early in life.

As GEddie said, modern science is rapidly erasing the physical / psychological distinction. There is even evidence (of a very early kind, but promising) that certain drugs if administered early enough, such as morphine or hydrocortisone, can even prevent the development of PTSD in those exposed to trauma. (The morphine finding was a serendipitous one, based on observations of wounded veterans. :))


In WW1, it was called shellshock.

In WW2, combat fatigue.

Since then, PTSD.

To which a late-night TV host once said, “Quit renaming it and cure it!”



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