Wednesday, July 23, 2014
They trembled, couldn’t sleep, were terrified of loud noises, suffered from headaches, dizziness, ringing in their ears. Some lost their memory or the ability to walk or talk. But they were often considered cowards or malingerers. One doctor said that shell-shock was a "manifestation of childishness and femininity". Treatment included electro-shock therapy, hot and cold baths, massage, daily marches, athletic activities, and hypnosis.
Officers were sometimes given psychoanalysis as well, especially at the famous Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland, which treated poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Read Sassoon's poem "Survivors", about shell-shocked soldiers, which he wrote while he was there.
Shell-shocked officers were said to have neurasthenia while the men (usually from the "lower classes") were classified as hysterics.
Medical evidence showed that shell concussion could cause neurological damage - tiny hemorrhages in the brain and central nervous system. But men exhibited symptoms of shell-shock even when they had not been exposed to artillery fire. In 1916, a distinction was made between those who were shell-shock wounded (W) and sick (S). Wounded was honourable, and entitled the victim to wear a “wound stripe”. The others received no stripe or even pension.
In 1917, the term shell-shock was no longer allowed. Patients were classified as Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous (NYDN). The men called it Not Yet Dead Nearly. It’s now referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Understandably, many of my characters suffer some degree of shell-shock.