"There's only so much fight in a person. Only so much death you can take before..."
The war never ended for this guy. They've seen
things that no amount of therapy
will ever completely heal (see the Real Life
section below, though), and it's left them so irrevocably scarred they have trouble feeling, emoting, and caring
about the people around them and themselves. If they continue to feel anything at all, it's usually restricted to Survivor Guilt
. Thus they're usually the first to do what must be done
and Shoot the Dog
If the Shell Shocked Veteran is out for revenge expect him to become an Antiheroic Hunter
, with varying degrees of success
In an ensemble show
or a Five-Man Band
, the Shell Shocked Veteran is usually the Quiet Big Guy
or The Lancer
. Often crosses into Aloof Big Brother
territory if they insist on being a loner. Many a Zen Survivor
has elements of the Shell Shocked Veteran in his Back Story
, though the Shell Shocked Veteran is likelier to eventually prove he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
or a Knight in Sour Armor
. The Shell Shocked Veteran is usually, but not always, older than most of the cast; it seems war, like prison, doesn't take long to change you.
"Shell shock" is a nickname for what was eventually termed post-traumatic stress disorder
, a real
condition that wartime soldiers face but which can also be caused by any of several things other than combat. Most Shell Shocked Veterans will, at some point or another be seen exhibiting the classic Thousand Yard Stare
, with its blank, emotionless expression and unfocussed, empty eyes.
A subtrope of The Stoic
, also related to Heroic BSOD
. They may be an Old Soldier
, but probably not a Blood Knight
. Expect him to have a Sympathetic Murder Backstory
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Anime and Manga
- Suicida, leader of Gang Green in Marshal Law, is a Zone veteran who never got the chip off his shoulder. He runs with a gang of equally crazy superhero vets fighting other crazy superhero vets and anyone else who so much as meets his eye. He wears a necklace of human ears. The front of his jacket reads Nuke me slowly. In his own words, "You can't turn me on an' off like a tap, man!" and "I just wanna punch the whole world in the mouth!"
- Of course, Marshal Law himself and virtually every "hero" he fights are also traumatized Zone veterans.
- The Punisher definitely fits the bill. After three brutal tours of duty in Vietnam, Frank Castle lost his wife and children to Mafia thugs and now wages a one-man war on crime. Various authors have toyed with Frank's mental state, and Garth Ennis has suggested that in Vietnam, Frank started to love combat and killing people, with the death of his family possibly being only the spark that caused his killing.
- Batman in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, at least in the first series. He somewhat softens up and chills out in the second series, at least enough to fall in love with girl-Robin and actually admit it directly to her.
- Batman in all DC continuities. You know that he's shocked by the deaths of his parents when he goes out and dresses like a flying rat.
- The Penguin, although varying based on the interpretation, usually exhibits at least seven symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is enough for a diagnosis. This is especially made obvious in Penguin: Pain and Prejudice.
- Any long-lived old-timer mutant in the X-Men series such as Wolverine, Magneto, or Cable.
- It doesn't even have to be the older ones, many still young mutants can have nasty backstories leaving them with an equal mix of combat abilities and psychological trouble ala X-23 (raised as perfect killing machine by a secret weapon developing organisation) or Marrow (raised in a hostile pocket dimension as super powered foot soldier).
- Rachel Summers came from a future where mutants were outlawed, hunted down by the military or locked into concentration camps. She was drugged, brainwashed and forced to use her telepathic abilities to track down mutants. Wolverine once compares her to Holocaust survivors.
- Bucky Barnes.
- In Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, we eventually see that Captain Hugo Darcy's father is a WWI veteran who lost all his limbs after going over the top and has been ranting about it ever since. "Hand grenades, they said! Artillery, they said! Machine guns and barbed wire, they said! Stuff and nonsense! Poppycock, I told them!"
- Marv from Sin City is implied to be one. He says he fought in a war, he has a gruesomely scarred face, has an unnamed mental condition, is extremely proficient in hand-to-hand combat and tends to fly into psychotic rages.
- Jackie acts this way in Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters when pretending to be a Red Baron, a Shout-Out to Charlie Brown.
- The discredited Tron: Ghost In the Machine started out with this. The combination of literally living through a first-person shooter and the implications of what being a User means hit Jet like a speeding lightcycle. When the story opens, he has gone from a brilliant programmer and former Playful Hacker to a technophobic shut-in, hunkered down in the remains of the old arcade.
- The Unknown Soldier was once assigned to impersonate a presumed dead American soldier who was known to be so ferocious in battle, he was nicknamed "The Edge." Eventually, the soldier found The Edge was alive, but a prisoner of the Japanese, with his mind utterly shattered with battle fatigue.
- Played for Laughs in one Ach!lle Talon, where he comes across a Banana Republic soldier crying on a log. His traveling companion notes that it must be a fresh-faced newbie... or a very hardened veteran, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
- Kalash93 seems to love writing these.
- Most triumphantly, there is Shining Armor in Shell Shock.
- Telny from Racer And The Geek is definitely this, although what exactly happened to him is not yet fully known.
- It's obvious from his letter that the protagonist of Welcome To The Brothel is well on his way to becoming this.
- In the related story, Relax, the protagonist is obviously in a pretty bad way at the start, but a round of good old lovemaking does wonders to help him.
- Harry Potter is already one of these, but many fanfics exaggerate this aspect of him.
- Frank and Alice Longbottom are portrayed as having a magical version of PTSD in Hawk-Eyed Charlie.
- Darkfic tends to turn Max from Across the Universe into one of these. He's a bit of one in canon— "everything below the neck works fine,"
- Digimon fanfiction turns the North Korean Digidestined into this. Justified in that Word of God states they exist, but we never see them and there's no telling what their lives are like behind closed doors.
- Of course, given that they live in North Korea, unless they're Kim Jong's kids, having a horrible enough life to invoke this trope is almost a guarantee.
- Also of note: If the DPRK Digidestined is one of the tiny percentage of North Koreans who isn't dirt poor, they will be Brainwashed and Crazy or otherwise a Stepford Smiler. Again, these are justified tropes given what is known so far about the DPRK from the rest of the world.
- Frodo Baggins has become one in Bag Enders, being six thousand years old and suffering from Post-Ringbearer Syndrome.
- Amazingly, Minato Namikaze seems to be one - in the Naruto fanfic The Girl From Whirlpool seems to be at least a mild example. Find it here.
- The Wizard in the Shadows has Harry as this. He came to Middle Earth with the original intention of a couple of months rest and relaxation away from it all. Four years on, he's one of the biggest badasses and most feared entities in Middle Earth. He's also just this side of being completely insane, occasionally doing a fair impersonation of Deadpool minus the active cases of Breaking the Fourth Wall (though he lean on it every now and then). By the end, he's somewhat more functional. Somewhat.
- Child Of The Storm, by the same author as the above, implies that Tony's issues post New York have only been partially dealt with in the altered timeline and that they're still simmering under the surface.
- Harry gets some actual therapy in a surprising aversion of There Are No Therapists from Charles Xavier, though that's mostly for his abandonment issues.
- Harry Dresden most certainly qualifies as this, and like the other Harry, gets therapy from Charles Xavier, though his is rather more extensive.
- Crash from MSLN Test Dummies has PTSD from his earlier run-in with the Numbers, such that meeting Combat Cyborgs, Subaru included, doesn't go down well. He gets better after Subaru pushing him too far triggers his Heroic Safe Mode and he trashes her.
- Link in Insomnia. He's always watching his back no matter the situation, keeps his feelings bottled up almost airtightly, and counts his kills, apparently ever since the end of his first adventure.
- In the Poké Wars series, practically all of the characters. Dawn is one of the most detailed examples.
- Pretty much every X-Com member in XSGCOM. You would be, considering their casualty rates.
- Forward: It seems to come and go with River. On the one hand, she's (rightfully) traumatized by everything that's happened to her. On the other hand, when she's in control, she has a razor-sharp focus that lets her bury that sort of detail far below conscious thought. And on the third hand she's still a little bit crazy.
- Just about everyone else features shades of it, too. Mal and Zoe, of course, inherit theirs from canon, while Kaylee is still messed up over the Near-Rape Experience in "Objects In Space" and Book's past (whatever that may be) is clearly still in the back of his mind.
- Uchiha Sasuke in White Rain - the man has issues. Multiple personal issues, for which he needs professional help.
- Let's put this into perspective: Itachi Jr. is actually a all-around 12 year old Nice Guy. Sasuke uses Tsukuyomi on him just because he looks like his father. Yeeeah.
- Used as part of the deconstruction of Fallout by Fallout: Equestria, where Littlepip’s experiences and body count continue to exhibit a increasing toll on her sanity as the story goes on. Applesnack/Steelhooves also exhibits signs of severe combat stress, and getting him some therapy alongside Celestia, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy might well have averted the apocalypse entirely. It’s suggested in story that Equestria’s lack of experience with fighting total war meant they were totally unprepared for large scale PTSD, or its consequences.
- Ichigo in A Protector's Pride. His dad tells him to unwind after "The Winter War" saying he's only 15 or he might go insane. He proves his point by pointing Ichigo's posture is always in a defensive stance.
- In the Total Drama story, Legacy, one contestant enters a period of mental decline after seeing a fellow contestant murdered before his eyes.
- Dr Tofu fears this has happened to Ranma in the fanfic, Cold Dragon. This was especially worrisome given the combination of Ranma's end-of-manga skill level and a tendency of those in this state to deal with things in the most direct and effective manner possible. Made worse when Tofu realizes that Genma had been effectively trying to create this state with his Training from Hell teaching style. And then Ranma becomes the eponymous 'Cold Dragon'.
- Hard Reset has this as the result of a "Groundhog Day" Loop. Especially since the usual reset condition was the protagonist's death instead of the end of the day. And the day ended up best filed under Bug War and Apocalypse How. Things got so bad that the story went on past the end of the loop as Eakins, the author, was told by readers that just ending the story with the good guys winning seemed too pat (Viewers Are Geniuses, perhaps). This resulted in a sequel.
- A Naruto/Doom Crossover fic has this happen to Naruto. Accidentally transported to Hell, Naruto spends approximately fifty years waging war against the forces of Hell to find a way home while insuring they can never reach his world. Made worse in that because he can never fall safely fall asleep, he has to devour the souls of the demons he kills to survive. Two scenes that really sell how different he's become: 1) Viewing a severed head on a pike as little different than a "Stay off the grass" sign. 2) When he does get back, he's quickly banned from sparring with anyone as he can barely keep himself from killing his partners.
- The protagonist of the 40k fan fic Secret War, Attelus Kaltos suffers from severe PTSD, his constant chain smoking barely helps his nerves and paranoia. He also always puts his hands in his pockets, in an instinctive way to hide his shaking hands (even when they're not) After the horrid, horrid things he's been through it's understandable.
- Vietnam (and its in-development sequel), by Rorschach's Blot, portrays Shaggy as a burned-out Vietnam War veteran.
- In Marijuana Simpson Bart returns from Iraq but ultimately cannot readjust to the opulent, weed-centric lifestyle of the Simpsons.
- Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race has Mega Man himself, starting around episode 6. The trauma he's suffered starts getting to him, his doubts over himself grow, and he blames himself when anything goes wrong.
- Wings To Fly shows some of the Gundam Wing characters dealing with their tendencies in this direction. Lucrezia Noin has nightmares about her first Gundam encounter and spends most of a chapter fighting off a funk caused by the discovery that nearly everyone she graduated from the Victoria Space Combat Academy is dead.
- One of the minor characters, Lieutenant Richard Dyer, had nearly his entire extended family wiped out during the canon's Operation Daybreak. He's described as having cold eyes and only has an expression when he's speaking, suggesting this.
- Another character says that Dyer is explicitly treating his new squadronmates like he would have replacement pilots during the war; most replacements died in their first five missions, so as a psychological self-defense mechanism experienced pilots didn't treat them as "real people" until they'd lived at least that long.
- Explored in the Thunderbirds fic Understanding.
- Kur0Kishi loves this and use it for pretty much all of his Naruto crossovers.
- Hope On A Distant Mountain recasts the events of Dangan Ronpa as an Unwinnable Training Simulation that Naegi managed to beat. However, the experience has left him with PTSD, feeling disconnected from his family and uncertain how to approach his classmates, who aren't quite as he remembers them.
- Most characters from The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum. Marcus Renee, the (usual) protagonist, is implied to have PTSD. As is Stephan Bauer, the other protagonist, who still has nightmares over being forced to Mercy Kill an entire classroom of children. Still, for pure war-related trauma, both pale in comparison to Viktor M. Kraber, the resident Sharlto Copley expy, who attempts to shoot Luna twice, though he's stopped both times. He's a heavy drinker, has a habit of resorting to torture, and is perpetually bad-tempered. However, this is only because he lost his wife and children to TCB!Pinkie Pie.
- In Aftershocks, J.D. from Heathers is one. The fic explores PTSD's strain on his already-unstable psyche and relationship with his family.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In the Stephen King short story 1408, Enslin becomes totally paranoid after his experience.
- All the characters in All Quiet on the Western Front become Shell Shocked Veterans to one extent or another. Remarque wrote a sequel of shorts, The Road Back, which describes the survivors trying to integrate back into society. The novels focus on young soldiers who are hit the hardest: older men can go back to their jobs and families, but the young know nothing besides the war.
- Marshal Teddy Daniels of Shutter Island has a lot of bad dreams and a drinking problem because of the things he saw at the liberation of Dachau.
- Lord Peter Wimsey, especially in the earlier books in the series. He suffered a nervous breakdown right after the war, and has two more Heroic BSODs during the series.
- It's implied in Busman's Honeymoon that he's always vulnerable to relapse at the conclusion of a murder case - because in doing his duty, he's sending the murderer to his or her death.
- In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, one of the suspects, George Fentiman, is prone to panic attacks and bouts of shell-shock where he has no idea what he's doing. He didn't do it. However, there are many veteran characters in the book, none of whom are so badly affected.
- Many books (especially mysteries and romances) written by British authors in the immediately post-war years featured characters who are "not quite right" anymore, due to things they saw or did while in service. Probably Truth in Television, considering that most of a generation of young men were in active service, and the proper treatment for shell shock was basically considered to be "We just don't talk about the War around Joe."
- Pat Barker's WWI trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, The Ghost Road) deals extensively with shell shock, among other war-induced psychiatric disorders.
- Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge suffers from an unusual form of shell shock: he constantly hallucinates the presence of another soldier whom he was forced to execute during the war.
- Tad Williams's Memory Sorrow And Thorn series has two of these characters, although neither of them got that way via war per se. Cadrach was a powerful sorcerer who fell into despair after reading Du Svardenvyrd and was subsequently tortured into revealing his knowledge to Evil Sorcerer Pryrates. Camaris was the greatest knight in Osten Ard, but suffered a Heroic BSOD after falling in love with King Prester John's wife, the wife of his dearest friend, and then seeing her die in childbirth - a child he sired, and later attempted suicide. Twenty years later, he is found witless in a backwater inn, but eventually recovers and becomes the page trope.
- Several of the Wraiths from the X-Wing Series. They're all rather young — in their thirties at the most — but they've all screwed up somewhere, which is why they're in the Wraiths at all. Donos was near the edge for most of the first book and went over it for a time until his friends dragged him back, only to relapse temporarily two books later. Dia Passik has issues, too, as does Ton Phanan, everybody's favorite homicidal cybernetic doctor.
- There's also Castin Donn, whose problems stem from witnessing firsthand the Empire's brutal crackdown post-Endor. He seems pretty normal on the surface, but underneath he has a very low-key but exceptionally powerful hatred for the Empire and its successors. And then there was Lara Notsil, who had a bit of a mental problem as a result of her intelligence mission and her failure to save seventeen thousand crew aboard the Implacable from their own captain, although she had more of an identity crisis than anything else. (It's suggested that, ironically, her Intelligence training helped her here — since she was so used to totally assuming, and then totally discarding identities, she was more easily able to bury her past as Gara.)
- Leia is this in Splinter Of The Minds Eye. Vader's torture of her in A New Hope left invisible scars. All the same, Luke admires her for holding up as well as she does most of the time.
- In Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Luke is subjected to a form of torture that amounts to mentally experiencing thousands of years alone in space watching the stars go out; it doesn't break him, but he's affected for the rest of the book with a kind of nihilism and creeping despair. He tells a companion that it's like he's been infected, that "All I know is that it makes me want to die. No. Not die. Just... stop." Being Luke Skywalker, though, he pushes on and tries to act like he would have before that happened in the hopes of Becoming the Mask.
- The entire cast of the Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novels are gradually turning into these, for some fairly obvious reasons.
- Any veteran of the Imperial Guard, who has undoubtedly had his or her nerves shredded by facing some of the worst horrors imaginable with nothing more than a flak jacket and a lasgun, as seen in Eisenhorn. Not to mention they'll have watched lots of living things in general get shredded.
- Two words: "Gereon resists".
- Exception: the 597th. Although Cain does quite frequently (and offhandedly) refer to them as sociopaths, which might go a ways towards explaining it.
- The Silmarillion: Beren is described as being like this in various ways in different versions of the story, at least when he arrives in Doriath - unsurprisingly, given that J. R. R. Tolkien was a WWI veteran. Fortunately, Beren has a half-elf, half-goddess lover to help him heal.
- Hurin also becomes this, especially after having to witness what happens to his son Turin.
- And the gravestone of Tolkien and his wife have "Beren" and "Lúthien" written under their names.
- The Lord of the Rings: How many there are...for example, almost all the Elves left in Middle-Earth (most of whom are thousands of years old, have fought in countless wars which all turned out to be pointless in the end, and have seen or are about to see everything they care about in Middle-Earth pass away). Gimli, who's never the same after Galadriel (it isn't just BAD things that can leave you with stress injuries). Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam, who all have scars from carrying the Ring. (Note: All the listed characters ultimately sail to Aman, the approximate equivalent of Heaven, where it is said anyone can heal from anything. The story really ends when Sam goes, on the very last ship, having lived a long, happy, full life, but never having entirely healed from the Ring.)
- Septimus of Mrs. Dalloway. He watched his friend die in an explosion. As a result, he lost his humanity, he can't feel anything, he has hallucinations of the aforementioned friend, he's possibly schizophrenic, and he eventually kills himself.
- The protagonist of "For Esmé, With Love and Squalor" (in J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories). The viewpoint switches from first- to third-person during the time the WWII soldier is at his lowest ebb, emotionally. However, it's not difficult to guess "Sergeant X" is the narrator. In the paragraph preceding the POV shift, he writes, "I've disguised myself so cunningly that even the cleverest reader will fail to recognize me." (Unlike X, the other characters in this passage have names.)
- GSV Lasting Damage later the Masaq' Hub mind from Iain M. Bank's Culture novels is a rather depressed veteran of the Culture-Idirian War.
- All of the Animorphs become this by the end of the series. Jake is the most obvious/classic form of this, Marco is of the "successful life empty inside" kind. Also, Loren describes her father as a shell of his former self ever since he came home from Vietnam.
- Rachel doesn't feel anything like this, though — which gravely concerns her (and just about everybody) thanks to what it says about her.
- The disgraced war-prince Alloran aka Visser Three's Andalite host. He is already like this in The Andalite Chronicles and he even has a Pet the Dog moment with Loren when he defends her father from Chapman's insensitive remarks. In The Hork-Bajir Chronicles we see a younger Alloran become the disgraced veteran that Elfangor meets in The Andalite Chronicles. The image of Alloran painted in both books makes it clear that he's been deeply traumatized by the atrocities he witnessed and committed during the war against the Yeerks.
- Depending on which reality variant or which character iteration you're looking at, practically ALL the main characters in Hal Duncan's The Book of All Hours series are this at different points. Particularly Seamus/Prometheus (who is this in EVERY reality (unfortunately its a core staple of his archetype) and Jack (Carter) (in the iterations where he plays The Captain). Phreedom would have been this except she chose the Screw Destiny route and went AWOL.
- Ellie shows signs of this in The Ellie Chronicles, the sequel trilogy to The Tomorrow Series. She doesn't seem to have full-blown PTSD, but the war changed her, and not always for the better.
- Several Harry Potter characters, especially Harry and Snape.
- Most characters from The Hunger Games end up like this, especially ones who actually participated in the Games.
- Katniss had this problem before she even set foot in the arena, as her father was killed in a mine explosion years ago. But the third novel in the trilogy, Mockingjay, shows a Katniss which is the full-blown embodiment of this trope. A good chunk of the novel could even be considered a psychological breakdown of the effects of war and PTSD, including Katniss' addiction to 'morphling' and frequent panic attacks. It all culminates in her eventual attempted suicide by nightlock.
- Gregor at the end of The Underland Chronicles. He's twelve. Ripred is an older version of this.
- Basically everyone in World War Z.
- Harkins from The Tales of The Ketty Jay. Basically had his nerves shot to pieces by fighting as a Pilot in BOTH Aerium Wars, to the point that he is considered a burden on ground missions and gets 'really terrified' about a dozen times a week. But then, ask a certain someone to give him a few words of encouragement, and well...
- In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the advantage of fighting for a nobler cause is that a Shell Shocked Veteran, waking cold and shaking from Bad Dreams, can sometimes get back to sleep.
- Lighter Than a Feather, a WWII Alternate History novel, features a US Marine who believes every Japanese he kills is the same one, and thinks they/he is playing some kind of trick on him.
- Featured heavily in Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey, set in 1917 in an alternate universe identical to our own except that some individuals have magical powers. The protagonist's love interest has been severely wounded, mentally and physically, and after coming home to recover, spends a lot of time in the local pub that has been pretty much taken over by those in the same situation. Very realistic look at how PTSD (or "shell-shock") was viewed at the time.
- Most of the soldier boys in The Drowned Cities are this to one extent or another, with viewpoint character Sergeant Ocho, being a prime example. Hiding his trauma and anger behind a wall of bitterness, Ocho is a deeply screwed up Type IV Sociopathic Soldier, who's just barely clinging to his humanity in the midst of the carnage. His troopers aren't much better, and tend to take out their problems on the civilian population.
- Lois McMaster Bujold LOVES this trope. In her Vorkosigan novels, Sergeant Bothari's decidedly damaged personality is actually an IMPROVEMENT over his original post-incident situation; his original (politically motivated) therapy involved conditioning him to have violently agonizing migraines whenever he thought about his role in the war. He thought about it a lot. His commanding officer Aral Vorkosigan is incapable of seeing enemy soldiers as actual enemies, having long ago reached a point where all soldiers looked like children to him. Aral's son Miles realized how painful this trope could be during his first real adventure; at one point he looks upon an atrocity of his own devising and thinks, "so this is the crazy terror that prompts massacres in the night. I understand it now. I liked it better when I didn't." And that's not even touching on how bad it was for the physically and emotionally crippled protagonist of The Curse of Chalion.
- In The Last Full Measure by Michael Shaara, the horror of the The American Civil War has turned several characters into this. Lee observes that General Pickett has lost his spirit after his division was shattered at Gettysburg. Chamberlain, though not despondent, is deeply affected by his experience and is startled when he meets a recently-recruited officer who is still eager about fighting.
- Dr. Watson in the first Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet, having just gotten back from war in Afghanistan. He is miserable, lost, and suffers from crushing boredom in the first chapter, wastes his money in an attempt to entertain himself, mentions that his nerves are so frayed he is temporarily unemployable and lists "cannot abide arguments" among his peculiarities when he moves in with Holmes. However, living with Holmes, and occupying himself with the adventures to be had there, appears to have done him good, as his shell shock does not manifest itself in a noticeable way in the rest of the series, apart from occasional vociferous objections to war's stupidity and pointlessness.
- Scott from The Power of Five, With Good Reason. Poor guy.
- Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt gives us an example of this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. It has been several years since male protagonist Seth was in war, but he can still have nightmares about it.
- Eddard Stark survived Robert's Rebellion with quite a few psychological scars. Seeing the bodies of Rhaegar Targaryen's murdered children was especially traumatic.
- Aimon Behaim, in Pact, was a Canadian chronomancer who served overseas against Nazi practitioners, losing the use of a limb to the bite of a ghoul which left a Wound That Will Not Heal. Returning home afterwards, he found himself disconnected from his old life, leading him to enter into a not quite friendship with local diabolist Rosalyn Thorburn. They and their heirs would go on to shape the politics of the local practitioner scene when the story proper begins, after each of their deaths.
- In Bubble World, as Todd Piloski makes his war games more real, they start to mess with people's health like real war would.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5:
- The (Former) page quote is Delenn's response to a veteran of the Earth-Minbari war who kidnapped her; decidedly one of the scarier foes she would face.
- Given the eventual revelations about Delenn's past, in some ways she herself could be considered a Shell-Shocked Veteran who turned her pain inwards. Many of her personality traits could be explained as a result of unresolved and deeply internalized grief over what she started. It's unclear if this is how JMS designed the character but this is how Mira Furlan said she played the role.
- There's at least one group in the Minbari Warrior caste who want to resume the war, or at least kill Sheridan. And let's not even get started with the whole Narn-Centauri thing.
- Also, the man who thought he was King Arthur, in the episode "A Late Delivery from Avalon". As it turned out, he was the gunner of the Earthship that fired first on the Mimbari vessel carrying Delenn and the revered leader of the Mimbari. By the end of the episode, Delenn's forgiveness and kindness to him helps him out of his pain.
- There's also Sinclair in the first season, who is clearly suffering from the after-effects of the Earth-Minbari war. He particularly has nightmares about fighting at The Line, where humanity suffered 90% casualties.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: Commodore Decker from "The Doomsday Machine." When Kirk finds him, his mind is about as wrecked as his ship, largely due to Survivor Guilt.
- Deep Space Nine, being Darker and Edgier than the rest of Star Trek, showed particular interest in PTSD. Not surprising when you consider that the last two seasons depict the largest and bloodiest war ever experienced by the Federation, but even pre-Dominion War episodes look into it.
- Hell, Sisko notably falls into this category. The first episode deals heavily with Commander Sisko's depression after losing his wife during a particularly notorious battle. And much later on, after the Dominion War is in full swing, he begins having hallucinations and several nervous breakdowns.
- Nog experiences PTSD after he loses a leg in combat and stays in Vic Fontaine's Las Vegas holosuite program for a while to cope.
- According to the Star Trek Wikia, his acting in the episode ("It's Only A Paper Moon"), especially the part when he finally breaks down and starts to cry, was so close to real life that he afterwards was contacted by several combat veterans who complimented him on his work.
- A rare non-combat variant, in one of the many "torture O'Brien" episodes, he was put in a simulation for (what seemed to be) twenty YEARS. When poor O'Brien finally came out, he was a very changed man, constantly reminded of the horrors he faced, and guilt for killing his cell mate.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is this for awhile after she twice discovers that coming back from the dead is no picnic.
- In the Andromeda Season 1 finale and Season 2 premiere Rommie appears as a Shell-Shocked Veteran when a hidden computer file of her first meeting with the magog comes to the surface and subverts her programming.
- Captain Jack falls into this mode now and then in Doctor Who and Torchwood, having lived through at least two Dalek wars (In "Bad Wolf", he recounts a fleet of ships being destroyed), World War I, and World War II twice.
- The Doctor himself also occasionally falls into this mode when he thinks about the Time War that killed the rest of the Time Lords; his role in the war outside of its final act hasn't yet been made explicit, but it's been made clear that he was directly responsible for the (more or less) complete genocide of both species as some kind of last resort to end the war since the Daleks were winning and both sides would have wiped out every other species in the universe.
Tenth Doctor: I'm so old now. I used to have so much mercy.
- In "The Doctor's Daughter," he explicitly confirmed he fought alongside other Time Lords as a solider.
- Pictured above, the War Doctor. Instead of going by the name "Doctor", he was a warrior, choosing to shelve his principles to fight a war which was so big, he couldn't keep running from it and was eventually sucked right into the heart of the battle. He spent at least 400 years in battle through the Time War, and by the very end of it all, was absolutely sold on the notion of ending it by his own hand, unleashing a doomsday weapon which would cause a double genocide. Thankfully, he got a miraculous second chance at avoiding this fate. After regenerating, his dark legacy had such an effect on the Doctor that he wiped him from his memory until learning that he went out of that life as a hero.
- In the show's 50th anniversary special, "The Day of the Doctor", the conscience of the Moment tells the War Doctor what his future regenerations will be - the Tenth being "the one who regrets", and the Eleventh being "the one who forgets". But the one he didn't know about, his immediate successor, the Ninth Doctor, would turn out to be a man who resents.
- Also, in "The Ribos Operation" (part of the Fourth Doctor's Key to Time arc), the Graf Vynda-K has a bad case. At the end of the episode he is reliving and raving about battles long since fought, and ignoring the world around him.
- In series 8 of the new series, Clara's boyfriend Danny Pink was in Iraq and accidentally killed a child.
- Name a Battlestar Galactica character. Any Battlestar Galactica character, in no way limited to the ones currently in uniform. (The Razor movie is especially notable in allowing viewers to witness the events leading up to all three of its central characters becoming prime examples of the trope: one winds up as General Ripper, the other two both become suicide bombers. For opposite sides.)
- Played straight in Blue Heelers with There Last Night, The Cull and a few others. For several years around Anzac Day or Rememberance Day there would be an episode where they invoked this trope.
- Mal Reynolds from Firefly, as a result of the Unification War in general and Serenity Valley in particular.
- A deleted scene from the Firefly pilot episode Serenity makes it clear that this applies to both Mal and Zoe.
Simon: If that battle was so horrible, why'd he name the ship after it?
Zoe: Once you've been in Serenity, you never leave. You just learn to live there.
- A non-military example appears in "Bushwhacked" with the only man to "survive" a Reaver attack. Though, as Mal says:
Mal: You call him a survivor. He's not.
- Parodied on Seinfeld with George's father Frank. He was a chef during the Korean War, but swore never to cook again after a horrifying incident ... he served some overseasoned/slightly rancid meat and "sent fifteen of my own men to the latrine that night!" He's eventually convinced to start cooking again and helps out at a big dinner, only to go nuts when it looks like a guy's throwing up and knocks everyone's plates to the floor.
- Dr. Hunt in Grey's Anatomy. His PTSD is contrasted with that of his wife Cristina, who later suffers from it after a shooting and again after a plane crash.
- Parodied in Father Ted, when Ted and a local policeman are hunting the recently-escaped Father Jack:
Policeman: [Haunted] This reminds me of Vietnam...
Ted: You fought in Vietnam?
Policeman: Ah, no man. You know — the films.
- Played for Laughs in Soap with the Major who's still convinced he's fighting in the second world war and attacks the neighbours because he believes them to be Nazi spies.
- This is Played for Laughs on Drake & Josh with their grandfather, who goes crazy and thinks everyone is a German spy out to get him and even talks into a Shoe Phone.
- Played for Laughs on the last sketch of Saturday Night Live's 34th season where a man (played by host and former cast member Will Ferrell) who vacationed in Vietnam acts like a Shell-Shocked Veteran and sings Billy Joel's "Good Night Saigon" (joined by all of the then-current cast members, celebrity guest stars Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Tom Hanks, Maya Rudolph, Anne Hathaway, Norm McDonald, and Artie Lange [from MADtv, which at the time, was airing its final episode], and the musical guest for the episode [Green Day])
- Rick Simon on Simon & Simon experienced PTSD in the "I Thought The War Was Over" episode.
- Colleen McMurphy on China Beach became an alcoholic because of her wartime experiences in Vietnam.
- The Drew Carey Show:
Lewis: I think Santa doesn't want to kill us anymore. We didn't get any death threats, recently. And, when we threw Kate to him and left her for dead he didn't touch her.
Kate: Yeah, he told me not to worry and that he wasn't going to rape me. He told me that after what Santa saw in the Gulf War he could never be with a woman again.
- In Supernatural, a possible alternate future version of Dean Winchester turns into this after Sam gives in to Lucifer, Bobby is killed, and the Croatoan virus wipes out most of the planet.
- Castiel too, though his shellshock manifests a bit ... differently.
- Sam and Dean are both examples of this trope, although the extent to which it applies comes and goes. It is implied that all hunters are as well, or soon will be. Dean becomes even more so after spending a year in purgatory before season 8, where he had to be on constant alert and fight to survive.
- John Winchester averts this trope when younger, and plays it straight later in life. Averted, in that although he served as a Marine in Vietnam, he returns home and seems reasonably well adjusted. Once Mary dies and he becomes a hunter, the trope is played straight.
- The killer in the Criminal Minds episode "Distress", who is committing his crimes because he's had a psychotic break and thinks he's still in combat.
- Nurse Veronica Callahan on Mercy.
- In Odysseus, the title character physically comes back to Ithaca, but his mind is still stuck in the war between the Greeks and Troy. He suffers from constant nightmares and paranoia, and his sanity is slowly slipping as the show goes on.
- Frank tries to pass himself off as this. The rest of the Gang see through it, but he doesn't miss a beat.
Frank: Look, I didn't go to Vietnam just to have pansies like you take my freedom away from me.
Dee: You went to Vietnam in 1993 to open up a sweatshop!
- In Life On Mars, Reg Cole is a subversion - he didn't actually get to go to war, and that's a plot point.
- Subverted with Dr. Watson in Sherlock. His psychosomatic injuries and therapy indicate that he's suffering PTSD and haunted by his experiences during the war, since he did see people die on him, but the truth is actually that he misses it. This leads to him helping Sherlock Holmes, since it allows him to indulge his Blood Knight tendencies.
- Largely averted in Magnum, P.I.. Although the main characters served in Vietnam and still bear the scars from it, they seemed to re-integrate back into civilian life.
- The recurring character Mac might be this, or he might just be using it as part of his ongoing cons. As part of the character's backstory is having had a serious brain injury in Vietnam, AND being a conman, it's hard to tell.
- Magnum meets other vets who didn't come home as healthy as he did, including one who lives in a patch of forest surrounded by tripwires and thinks he's in Vietnam much of the time.
- Jimmy Darmody and Richard Harrow of Boardwalk Empire both served in World War One and came back with lingering injuries (Jimmy has consistent pain from a leg wound and Harrow had half of his face disfigured) and severe shell-shock. Both are so mentally damaged by all of the killing they experienced and committed in the trenches that they take up work as hired killers with few qualms, and while they are still nice to friends, they exhibit a notable Lack of Empathy. (Especially Richard, who once proposed to draw a target out of hiding by killing innocent family members).
- Anthony/Victor from Dollhouse became a Doll after returning home from Afghanistan with severe PTSD.
- According to Linkara, Power Rangers' Tommy becomes this by the time of Power Rangers Dino Thunder due to years of fighting evil, where the current evil all used to be his friends.
- Leonard on Community claims to have participated in several wars, and this trope may be an explanation for his current wild and coarse nature.
- Homeland has Brody, returning home after several years of torture as prisoner-of-war. He blanks out, has mood swings, nightmares, sleeps on the floor so as not to hurt his wife and may well have undergone a Face-Heel Turn.
- The Murdoch Mysteries episode "Kommando" basically runs the "drug-addicted Vietnam vet can't cope with civilian life, or the memory of what he's done" storyline, only in the Second Boer War. There's the added twist that his former comrades are hunting him, lest he tell the world exactly what they did.
- Bomb Girls: Lorna's husband Bob.
- Lang from Downton Abbey.
- The only witness to the latest murder in "Déjà Vu" is a retired Navy SEAL who works as a groundskeeper at Arlington National Cemetery, and who spends much of his time drinking.
- J.D. in "Sightings", a former Navy SEAL who harbors a very strong distrust of the Government in general.
- Colonel Matt Anderson in "Survivors" has many flashbacks to The Vietnam War and believes his young son to be the Reincarnation of a dead war buddy.
- In the second season episode "The Guardian", Chief Petty Officer Paul Bauwer, a homeless former Navy SEAL, is accused of killing three men while thwarting a convenience store robbery which he did to protect his young son who doesn’t know who he really is.
- NCIS: Several episodes have featured veterans from a variety of wars suffering guilt or hallucinations due to the trauma and resulting stress.
- Scandal: Huck reveals himself to be this, due to his CIA black-ops training. He and his other operatives were conditioned to torture enemies and eventually grew to like it. Huck wanted out and was trying to "get sober" while living homeless when Olivia found him.
- The Hour: Both Hector Madden and Laurie Stern are this. It manifests in very different ways.
- Las Vegas. Danny McCoy when he returns from his second tour of duty with the Marines in season 2. He recovers later on.
- Confederate vet Johnny Yuma on The Rebel.
- Iraq war vet Terry Bellefleur on True Blood.
- Aiden Black from Cracked is a police officer who suffers from symptoms of PTSD after being involved in two fatal shootings. The episode "Old Soldiers" revolves around a shellshocked Afghanistan vet planning to go out in a blaze of glory and ends with Aiden joining a support group. In "Faces" we meet ex-Child Soldier Benjamin Omari, a veteran of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who ends up joining Aiden's support group.
- Alan Bridges from the second Christmas special of Call the Midwife has serious PTSD after a particularly brutal experience in The Korean War (he was on National Service "fixing spark plugs" but was forced to front-line duty—as in killing men with bayonets—when the Chinese overwhelmed his unit's position). We learn as a result that Trixie's sunny, bubbly personality is in part derived from her constant need to cheer up her father, who was shell-shocked serving in the Mesopotamian Campaign of World War I.
- Justified has Raylan's father, Arlo, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD, early onset dementia, and bipolar disorder, and Deputy Marshal Tim Gutterson, an Afghan war vet who spends most of his time drinking to forget his service. Season 4 gives Tim an Evil Counterpart in Boyd's new Dragon Colton Rhodes, an Iraq and Afghan veteran, who battles with a heroin addiction that he gained to cope with his trauma. We also meet Tim's drug addicted friend Mark; when Colton says that "most of [Mike] died somewhere in Kandahar", he's not wrong, but he's also projecting.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyles The Lost World: Malone watched three comrades die in World War I while hallucinating when he's shot by a poison dart. It's also implied Roxton had a rough time from World War I.
- Edgar from You're The Worst suffers from PTSD after a stint in Iraq.
- Sonata Arctica's song Replica is about this.
- 'Broken Soldier' by The Black Angels, deals with a crippled soldier suffering from PTSD, what caused him to become so and his difficulty returning to civilian life, never truly feeling safe.
- Blue Oyster Cult's "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" appears to be a sufferer, though the lyrics leave ambiguous whether the war is real or not.
- Mac Singleton from the music video for the Travis Tritt song Anymore.
- "Wild Irish Rose" by George Jones is about a homeless, alcoholic Vietnam vet.
- "Still in Saigon" by The Charlie Daniels Band is about a shellshocked Vietnam Vet.
- "War Inside My Head" part of the second disc of Dream Theater's "6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence" is about a shell shocked Vietnam veteran who has hallucinations of the war.
- The narrator of Richard Thompson's "Al Bowlly's in Heaven" is a destitute WWII vet who "can't close me eyes on a bench or a bed/for the sound of some battle raging in my head."
- "Drive On" by Johnny Cash.
- Also "The Ballad of Ira Hayes".
- "Hell Broke Luce" from Bad As Me by Tom Waits tells the story of Jeff Lucey, an Iraq War veteran who killed himself due to the horrors he saw and committed.
- "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Öyster Cult
- "I Don't Want To Wait" by Paula Cole, that's right, the Dawson's Creek theme song is about a man going to war and coming home with PTSD.
- "I Bombed Korea" by CAKE
- "Zombie" by The Cranberries
- "Khe Sanh" by Cold Chisel
- "Sam Stone" by John Prine
- "Eighth of November" by Big and Rich
- Roger Waters' "Paranoid Eyes". Most of The Final Cut, for that matter.
- Confederate vet Virgil Caine (the narrator) in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by The Band.
- The Mash theme song, Suicide Is Painless
- "The Girl Next Door" by Country Joe MacDonald is about a woman who develops PTSD while serving as an Army nurse in Vietnam.
- "Born In The U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen.
- According to lyricist Bernie Taupin, the title character in "Daniel" by Elton John is one who wants to be left alone.
- Vietnam vet John Lee Pettimore (the narrator) in "Copperhead Road" by Steve Earle.
"I wake up screaming like I'm back over there".
- Redgum's 'I Was Only 19 (A Walk In The Light Green)' is about the plight of Australian veterans of Vietnam, who came home scarred by shrapnel, Agent Orange, and psychological trauma:
And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And night time's just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.
- "Too Long a Soldier" by Pat Benatar.
- The inmates from "Red Sector A" by Rush.
" A wound that will not heal. A heart that cannot feel."
"Hoping that the horror will recede..."
In "The Silent Avenger," The Shadow
is up against one of his deadliest opponents: a shell-shocked WWI sniper whose condemned gangster brother has set him loose on the judge, jury, and governor.
- This was the fate of several different characters in Dino Attack RPG. Kate Bishop and Sam Race were both in need of massive therapy to get over their trauma (the former of whom even developed a drug addiction). Sarah Bishop on the other hand is haunted by guilt over the people she killed. Then of course Rotor and Cabin's relationship quickly goes downhill because neither can really adjust to society after the war.
- In one of his stand-up routines, Bill Bailey discusses a conversation he had with someone about the traditional "things to do before you die" life-ambition of swimming with dolphins; apparently, the dolphins this person had swam with had previously been used for military service and consequently had "a glazed, far-away look in their eyes".
Bill: [as the dolphin] You weren't there, man. You weren't there.
- George Carlin during a routine criticizing euphemisms over more direct language, gave the use of alternative words to Shell-Shock as a primary example of such behavior.
- In the first World War it was simply "Shell-Shock", simple and direct. "Almost sounds like the guns themselves."
- The second World War comes along and the same condition is now "Battle Fatigue" which sounds much less terrible.
- Then during the Korean War became the more impersonal "Operational Exhaustion" which Carlin said sounded like something a car might suffer.
- Finally during the Vietnam war the term "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" was coined and in his opinion diluting the humanity of the condition entirely.
George Carlin: "I betcha if we'd still been calling it Shell-Shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time."
- Dungeons & Dragons adventure OA6 Ronin Challenge. The PC's can meet Nozumi Takahosho, an ex-cavalryman in the service of General Goyat. The terrible things he experienced during the pursuit of Governor Kawabi plus a dose of jungle diseases permanently addled his mind.
"We went to the jungle," he says excitedly, pointing in the direction of the Shao Mountains. His eyes then glaze over as he struggles to remember the details. "The jungle..." he stammers, "The devil-men...they had teeth like snakes...they killed everyone...everyone..." [he collapses to the ground, sobbing and shaking]
- Warhammer 40,000: The Imperial Guard has Sly Marbo, the One-Man Army. What he's seen and done has made him unable to function other than by killing the Emperor's enemies (he apparently has loads of medals piling up somewhere, having no use for them).
- Especially the long-term effects of the sanity rules in Call of Cthulhu can be easily likened to this. It helps that not all triggers for SAN checks are even necessarily supernatural.
- Chris in Miss Saigon. John too, though he's not as badly off.
- It is possible to see Coriolanus as this. Even though it was written and set long before shell-shock was understood or the weapons that usually caused it had been developed, Coriolanus' public and point-blank refusal to talk about his many battles (even though he knows his refusal will severely damage him,) might indicate trauma. The Ralph Fiennes film version (which was set in modern times,) heavily implied this.
- Auron in Final Fantasy X, he's even got the scars to prove it.
- Cyan Garamonde in Final Fantasy VI is a rare example of having their Heroic BSOD happen in-game.
- Shadow from the same game is also implied to be of this trope. Just have him sleep at the inn while playing as him and you'll see dreams relating to his past.
- Cloud from Final Fantasy VII is a prime candidate for post-traumatic stress. He even spends a large portion of the game in a coma!
- Although he gets better by the end of the original game, Advent Children shows that he's far from fully recovered from his traumatic experiences.
- Metal Gear Solid is made up of these characters. Solid Snake, in particular, was nearly completely emotionally crippled by war by the age of thirty and had to work his way out of it again. Big Boss's Start of Darkness showed the beginning of his slide, but he didn't recover. Even the young Raiden gets in on it, having been one of Africa's Child Soldiers.
Snake (laying a cloth over the face of a womannote he just killed): I don't need a handkerchief.
Snake: I don't have any more tears to shed.
- Kratos from God of War displays traits of a Shell-Shocked Veteran. This may be one of the reasons why he is such a ruthless Sociopathic Hero.
- Kratos from Tales of Symphonia exhibits tendencies of this trope from the very beginning. As you get further out in the game, the party learns that he has a very, very long and rocky history to explain it.
- Most of the main cast of Final Fantasy XII, one way or another, though it seems to be played straightest with Basch.
- Penelo lampshades how the party are a group of this trope, pointing towards the war between Rozarria and Arcadia as the cause of it. Rightfully so actually.
- Spoofed in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where one of the guests on a radio talk show, Entertaining America, is a washed up action movie hero who earnestly believes everything that happened in his movies, including his friend dying in Vietnam, happened for real. And the host gets shot and killed by him when he calls him out on it.
- Then turned around and played terrifyingly straight in Grand Theft Auto IV, with Nico Bellic. You don't need to come up with complex justifications for any crimes he's committed; fighting in Eastern European civil wars, he's seen the very worst a human being can do. It says something about how bad a place is when going to Liberty City is an improvement.
Niko Bellic: You remember, during the war... we did some bad things, and bad things happened to us. War, is where the young and stupid are tricked by the old and bitter into killing each other. I was very young, and very angry. Maybe that is no excuse.
- The Psychopath Cliff in Dead Rising is a Vietnam vet caught in a flashback; he ambushes you from the vents and wields a machete. Once you take him down, he comes to his senses, and tells you as he dies that he went back to the war on seeing zombies devour his granddaughter.
- Gears of War:
Carmine: Hey, are you the Marcus Fenix? The one who fought at Aspho Fields?
Carmine: Hey, cool!
Marcus: Not really.
(after encountering some grub holes)
Carmine: I used to have nightmares about those things when I was a kid.
Dom: Shit, I still do...
- In Kingdom Hearts, Leon occupies this role, having changed his name (from Squall Leonhart) out of guilt over being unable to save his world from The Heartless.
- Ciel in Tsukihime claims to be one of these, but we only see her through the eyes of Shiki. From the reactions of others to her and some of what she does even to him, it's likely true. After all, she goes fufufufu... Oh, and she's actually in her mid twenties despite looking the same age as Shiki or younger, and unlike Arcueid has actually lived for most of that time.
- After a nuclear explosion kills 30,000 American troops in Call of Duty 4, the sequel introduces General Shepherd, who turns out to be The Chessmaster who essentially started World War III just so he could avenge his fallen troops and exploit the full military might of "the most powerful fighting force in the world" on anyone and everyone he wanted.
- The Warcraft universe has several. Varok Saurfang and Farseer Nobundo come to mind. (Those two even qualified by being on opposite sides of the same conflict.)
- Drek'Thar feels remorse for the atrocities he committed as part of the Old Horde, and because the Forsaken commit similar deeds without feeling anything, he refuses to help them.
- Bao-Dur from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
- It's heavily implied that the Exile has this even worse then Bao-Dur; the game doesn't even allow (canonically) her to recount her experiences in the war, or any other part of her life. Other characters remark on this in her absence.
Kreia: Do you speak of all your battles? Or are there some you wish to forget?
- It was hinted at in Metroid's manga although how much was actually Samus's PTSD is never elaborated, especially when the ending has her defeating and mocking Ridley. Another hint at it was in the ending of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, where she sits in thought reflecting of the allies she was forced to kill.
- Depending on dialogue choices, Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect series can fit this trope. If the right dialogue is chosen, s/he's cynical and bitter with major emotional scars from his/her past experiences. And s/he's especially this in Mass Effect 3 where it becomes pretty clear how emotionally burned out s/he really is.
- Particularly since 3 really highlights the fact that Shepard never really dealt with the trauma of dying in the previous game and has been simply putting on a brave face for everyone's benefit.
- In 3, Joker mentions his concern that Shepard's vitals recorded by their armour registered them as being presently under more stress than they were at Elysium/Torfan/Akuze, just in their normal resting state.
- Also a few of the background characters, most particularly Corporal Toombs, the only survivor of the Akuze incident (except possibly Sole Survivor Shepard). His appearance in the game consists of holding the man who engineered Akuze at gunpoint, and if you don't talk him down, he can't even find peace in death.
- There's a volus in Noveria who exhibits a particularly bad case after Doing What He Had To Do: sealing an asari colleague in the hot labs with the rachni so they wouldn't escape and kill him and the others. Two years later in the sequel, you receive an email from him saying that he hopes this is his purgatory and that he "really" died trying to save her (but if not, thank you).
- This is completely played straight regardless of player choices in Mass Effect 3. There are several side-quests and NPC's dealing directly with post-traumatic stress, with one NPC's name literally being "PTSD Soldier", an Asari commando who was forced to kill a young girl ( heavily implied to be Joker's sister), after her crying from a broken leg threatened to alert Reaper forces. If Shepard uses their Spectre authorisation to grant her request to carry a gun "for defense", upon returning to the Citadel she's revealed to have turned the gun on herself.
- Fear Effect: Glas, especially since he was a soldier, and has now taken to binge drinking and playing games of Russian Roulette.
- In Quake III: Arena this trope applies to many of the characters from previous Id games, especially from the Slipgate and Stroggos wars. Wrack, Grunt and Major are said to be this.
- Jack Krauser is strongly implied to be this in Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. To put it simply, he held a long, extensive, and extinguished service in the military as a SOCOM operative, and also underwent mercenary business whenever he had any days off from SOCOM, he has spent enough time on the battlefield to sense something is terribly wrong in an area due to it "smelling like a battlefield," and lastly is unable to function in regular society and thus needs the battlefield to function. This last part is ultimately what drives his Face-Heel Turn by the time of Resident Evil 4, as a serious injury to his arm that he received during his fight against Hilda Hidalgo essentially resulted in SOCOM firing him due to it never recovering.
- By the end of the game in Radiata Stories in the human path, Jack leaves Radiata, too shell-shocked with what he's done after being reinstated as a Radiata Knight by killing a lot of nonhuman characters, Ganz leaving him after finding out that he killed his father while being semi aware that Gawain may not have killed his father, and finally Ridley dying on him.
- in Valkyria Chronicles, one of your Gallian militia snipers, Catherine O'Hara, was also a sniper during the first Europan war. Despite her friendly demeanor, she clearly has a number of mental scars from her experiences. It's later revealed that she once ran out of ammunition and was helpless to watch a friend of hers get killed; She always has more ammo than the other snipers, but she panics if she ever runs out.
- Archer from Fate/stay night is not only one of these, but his magic is fueled by this.
- Spec Ops: The Line has John Konrad and quite a lot of his 33rd infantry battalion suffering from various stages of PTSD. Your squad quickly picks it up as well — Martin Walker is already implied to have initial stages of PTSD from his past in Afghanistan, which blossoms during the game into full-blown mental degradation. By the end, Walker is either dead by suicide or essentially catatonic.
- Lara is this at the end of Tomb Raider. A crewman of the fishing boat that picks up the Endurance survivors specifically mentions Lara's Thousand-Yard Stare, and Word of God is that one reason for her drive to continue her adventures is to "keep running" and avoid having to come to terms with the things that happened to her and what she had to do to survive on the island.
- BioShock Infinite: Booker was traumatized when he participated in the Battle of Wounded Knee — to put it in perspective, it was more of a massacre than a real fight.
- Chrom from Fire Emblem Awakening displays tendencies of this, in chapter six, he talks about having flashbacks and nightmares, a classic PTSD symptom. It doesn't seem to affect him in battle, however.
- Heroes of Might and Magic 3 features a Sorceress named Gem, who suffers this quite badly, judging by her dialogue in the Shadow of Death campaign. Through the urgings of one of her friends, she moved to the continent of Antagarich to escape the horrors she had endured during the Succession Wars. In the very first mission we get treated to infrequent prompts between in-game weeks of Gem's nightmares, starring her Rampart forces being butchered by the undead.
- In Dwarf Fortress your dwarfs can attain the personality trait "doesn't really care about anything anymore" if they witness too much violence. Players actively try to make their dwarfs like this, because dwarfs who do care can be driven Ax-Crazy if too many of their friends die.
- The player characters of NAM-1975, as shown in the intro and the back cover.
- Implied to be the fate of everyone in Risk of Rain, if they survive.
- Clive Barker's Undying: Patrick's former profession as a soldier left him with some psychological scars, the Gel'ziabar Stone, and a life debt owed to Jeremiah Covenant.
- Thaco the monk, from the webcomic Goblins, is the oldest of the main cast; in fact, the barbarian is his son. He was held captive and tortured some years ago. It took him long enough to get over it that his eventual recovery—by ignominiously beating down the person responsible—was a major character development point.
- Spoofed in Penny Arcade with Frank, a Vietnam vet turned EB Games store manager.
- Aiden from La Macchina Bellica has a pretty bad (and well researched) case of this combined with Survivors Guilt
- In Sinfest, Fuchsia's Flashbacks are explicitly termed Post-Traumatic Stress — though she is not technically a soldier, having only worked for Satan.
- Shoutan Himei from Sailor Nothing begins the story like a classic example of this trope. And just when you think things couldn't get worse for her, they inevitably do.
- Miss Henderson, the librarian at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. She's the only survivor of a Cosmic Horror experience. And probably Phase's mother, whose horrific trauma was when she was only six, and she's never really recovered from it.
- Adam Dodd from Survival of the Fittest version three fits this trope, having been the only survivor of version one. It was even pointed out in am old episode of the podcast run by the site members, where one of the hosts says "the game never ended for Adam Dodd; as far as he's concerned he never left the v1 island."
- Flippy from Happy Tree Friends is a vicious parody of this trope. Rather than breaking down when he sees a trigger, he efficiently eliminates any living being in the vicinity that could possibly pose a threat to him—and, for that matter, any living being that can't pose a threat to him.
- PTSD Clarinet Boy is this trope Played for Laughs.
- It's hinted that Sonic is this in Super Mario Bros. Z — and given what happened to him and everyone on Mobius at the hands of Mecha Sonic, one can hardly blame him.
- Red vs. Blue hints that the AI of Project Freelancer have PTSD. Due to the nature of the Cold-Blooded Torture used to create them, they (or at least Delta and Theta) are always afraid that something bad will happen at any moment, and keep their owners awake at night worrying about it.
- Carl Copenhagan from Demo Reel has a Dark and Troubled Past involving working with The Stasi. As is common with characters from the show, his pain only comes out when he's sick or alone.
- One of the key points of departure in the Alternate History timeline Reds is the United States entering the First World War on the side of the Allies in 1915, participating in the bloodiest engagements of the war and taking much worse losses than in our timeline. Even the less thoroughly traumatised veterans return home feeling very bitter indeed towards their political leadership. One of the most notable cases? George Patton. Yep, old Blood and Guts himself came back a deeply changed man, his faith in God and his old ideological beliefs lying buried in Flanders fields along with roughly a million of his fellow soldiers.
- Rarity is this in Friendship is Witchcraft, to the extent that she willingly joined Fluttershy's Apocalypse Cult and made a sweater specifically designed to give the wearer hugs.
Sweetie Belle: Well at least I don't spend every Veterans Day sobbing on the floor!
- The PTSD episode of The Damn Few discusses and attacks this trope, or at least exaggerations of this trope as applied to Real Life.
- Archer: Wodehouse was an enlisted servant on a Royal Flying Corps base, and didn't see any combat . . . until the death of his officer, Reggie Thistleton, broke his heart and his mind and sent him on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. It's implied that his experiences are the reason for his heroin addiction, as he is seen smoking opium not long after the war.
- A parody of this trope is Principal Skinner on The Simpsons, with his occasional 'Nam flashbacks, like the one on "I Love Lisa" where he saw his best friend (who was writing a love letter to his girlfriend) get shot in Da Nang in 1969 on Valentine's Day or the one on "Team Homer" where Skinner was put in a POW camp by Viet Cong after being distracted by a racy T-shirt slogan ("Up With Mini-Skirts") worn by one of his men.
- Parodied in Team Homer, where it looks like he's going into angry flashback mode, except...
I spent the next three years in a POW camp, forced to subsist on a thin stew made of fish, vegetables, prawns, coconut milk and four kinds of rice. I came close to madness trying to find it here in the States, but they just can't get the spices right!
- Also, one episode (the one where Samantha arrives at the school as a new student) had Skinner at one point angrily reminiscing about Vietnam while Samantha was being checked out, the two flashbacks he was angrily thinking about was being trapped in a Tiger cage while in Vietnam, as well as his being spat on presumably when he returned from Vietnam when he was promised with a parade.note
- In Transformers Animated (of all things), Ratchet breaks down into this during his first in-series combat situation against Lockdown, complete with Vietnam-esque flashbacks. He gets over it eventually after talking it over with Optimus.
- And you really can't forget the helpful effect of taking his revenge on Lockdown by forcibly removing the grapplers Lockdown stole and causing some apparently serious pain.
- As the Season Three opener has shown through a combination of more traumatic flashbacks and severe self-esteem issues? He's got a lot more to get over.
- This can also be seen in his attitude towards life in general. He's usually cranky, especially at "turbo-revving young punks" like Bumblebee who enjoy putting on mods and show off their battle prowess, and is dismissive of Optimus Prime's idealization of what the Great War must have been like. He was in it, and it sucked. He's often described as "Having one servo in the scrapheap". That's robo-speak for "one foot in the grave", FYI.
- He also displays a pathological hatred of upgrades after being tortured at the hands of an upgrade addict. Problematic when they become necessary over the course of the series- he practically has a Freak Out! over Optimus getting a Jetpack.
- In Transformers Prime, Arcee has a slight form of PTSD, that didn't get showed until the twelfth episode, there she meet Airachnid again, the same Decepticon who captured her, tortured her and killed her partner in front of her eyes during the war. She almost has a Heroic BSOD when she meets her again.
- Matrix from Reboot. The war for Mainframe, the loss of his hero to betrayal, and his own experiences in the games have left him this way.
- Referenced in an an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Err: Is he alright man?
Ignignokt: Cliff hasn't been 'all right' since the Lunar War.
- Brock Samson from The Venture Bros. shows elements of this, especially in the beginning of the series, as his name is basically a household word to most people in the army and he is described as a "god" by those who served with him. His first response to anyone who surprises him is to brutally murder them and the only emotions that he normally shows throughout the series is apathy, annoyance, and extreme sociopathic rage.
- Parodied on Family Guy when Peter and Lois' restaurant becomes a popular hang-out for cripples:
Peter: Oh, God. I hope there's not one of those angry, handicapped Vietnam guys with a bandanna on his head. Oh, there he is.
Crazy Vietnam Guy: I've seen some things, man, and some stuff. I wouldn't recommend it!
- In King of the Hill, Cotton Hill falls into this somewhat, although he seems to revel in his past war experiences a bit more than is healthy. This trope comes into full effect during an episode when Cotton's VFW group attempts to reach out to some Vietnam vets (whom Cotton thinks of as wimps who got off easy compared to him). This ends with the Vietnam vets suffering flashbacks and chasing Cotton and Hank into the woods, where they finally earn his respect by managing to capture him.
- It is implied in Kim Possible that Mr. Barkin is this. He often refers to his time in 'Nam and at least once retreats into his private Cloudcuckooland when he and Ron are trapped together in a container.
- Steve Smith on American Dad! becomes one after participating in a Vietnam War reenactment for one day at a golf club. Though it was really because participating in the reenactment was the only thing Stan was ever proud of him for.
- Played very straight in Wing Commander Academy: Archer is forced to kill a fellow cadet who had gone insane and was going to destroy the Tiger's Claw. To twist the knife a little more, he had confessed his love to her only hours before. After that, Archer tended to hesitate before firing because she didn't want to take another life, which nearly got her wingman killed at least twice because they were still actively fighting in a war.
- Jeong Jeong from Avatar: The Last Airbender can be interpreted as this.
- Iroh as well. He downplays it, but he's clearly haunted by his six-hundred-day siege of Ba Sing Se (including the loss of his son). It doesn't stop him, notably, from taking it back in the finale.
- Zuko, whose childhood was a constant battle for survival against his father, grandfather, and sister tormenting him and/or trying to kill him. The way he reacts to reminders of his father's horrific abuse in "The Storm," the narrative flashbacks in "Zuko Alone," and his dreams in "The Earth King" (among other indicators) all seem to suggest a certain level of post-traumatic stress.
- In Book Four of The Legend of Korra, Korra herself is a straightforward example; her near death experience and paralysis at the hands of Zaheer left her unable to do much of anything. The second episode of the season shows her dealing with her PTSD for roughly three years, complete with flashbacks of being attacked by Zaheer and being stalked and attacked by an apparition of herself in the avatar state. This is after she tells her friends she'd only be gone for a few weeks.
- It's hinted that the museum curator that Spellbinder brainwashes to steal the Princess Audrey line of clothes in Batman Beyond was of this trope, as the method he used to brainwash him involved him in an unspecified war where he was carrying an injured comrade (actually the Princess Audrey line of clothes) through the jungle and then placing his "comrade" in a support chopper (actually Spellbinder's vehicle) to evacuate from the warzone, and told the chopper to leave without him when soldiers from the enemy's army approach (actually Batman), and it is hinted that the reason why Spellbinder chose that specific way to brainwash him was because the curator, a parent of one of the High school students, told Spellbinder's true identity, the High School's guidance counselor, about it during a parent-teacher session.
- Sadly every war in the history of mankind will at least have one of these.
- As George Santayana puts it - "Only the dead have seen the end of war."
- At once more and less prevalent than it used to be. War is no longer so much about hacking apart other people at arm's length or closer, and more advanced weapons tend to make for less in-your-face combat, which takes some of the edge off. But those weapons are also far more lethal, more diverse and more easily made or obtained than ever before. The last century in particular has seen the advent of 'total war' and the rise of guerrilla warfare, which has redefined the relationship of civilians to warfare in a way that just asks for atrocities to happen.
- The primary difference between combat now and earlier is that combat during the previous two centuries has become far more sustained and intense. A human mind and psyche can stand up to a few hard knocks and come out ok; this was well suited to warfare up until the last couple of centuries, as wars usually consisted of long periods of doing other stuff interspersed with short, sharp battles. However, the intensity and length of combat gradually began to extend beyond the human psyche's ability to cope. Put a man in danger for a day and you'll give him the shakes that night. Put him in constant mortal danger for months or even years on end (see World War I, for example) and soldiers begin breaking down.
- There's a saying among veterans and survivors of horror ordeals: There Last Night. As in: a discussion between two vets where one would say they were in Vietnam in '68, and the other might reply, "Mate, I was there last night." For some, they can never let it go. The tragic real life trope of Shellshocked Veteran led to the forming of groups such as Legacy.
- One of (many) reasons why the French were so ill-prepared to resist the Nazis in World War II may be attributed to nationwide trauma following World War I. Even though France ultimately won, the cost of victory was so terrible that the French had nearly lost all appetite for war. Around 8 million Frenchmen (two fifths of the country's pre-war male population) fought in the war; about 1.3 million died, while another 4 million had been injured. The sheer number of men lost coupled with the physical and mental scars of the war led to a population decline for nearly three decades. By 1940, the population of France was 40 million, which was roughly the same as it was in 1914.
- For a contrast, illustrating that this trope is sometimes Truth in Television and sometimes not, consider the case of Shaar Menashe, a hospital in Israel dedicated to the care of mentally ill survivors of the Holocaust. Post-traumatic stress disorder's ravages have resulted in there being people in the world for whom the Shoah never ended, who are still in the camps after seventy years.
- Not surprising; in real-life, people don't ever recover from or "get over" PTSD. They must learn to live with PTSD (which sucks for all concerned), because those ravages never go away. Sort of like cancer's remission. Tragically, in many cases, a trigger, a return to battle, a social situation requiring subtle grasp of nuance, or a random startle will instantly ratchet a sufferer right back up to their highest ever — and most unbearable, undefusable, and unmitigated — levels of PTSD symptoms.
- An issue has been a perception of weakness if a veteran were to seek treatment while in service; part of the US military's efforts as a result of Iraq (and particularly of "traumatic brain injury" due to so many explosions) has been to both facilitate treatment and to encourage service members to take advantage thereof.
- Audie Murphy, one of the most highly decorated American soldiers in World War II, suffered from shell shock. Later, based on his own experiences, he campaigned for support of Korean War and Vietnam War victims of what was called "battle fatigue" at the time Murphy served. Prior to that point, discussing war-related mental illnesses was considered taboo in many circles.
- Roméo Dallaire, one of the most admired people in Canada, commanded UN forces in Rwanda during the genocide there and is credited with helping to save 32,000 lives. He later had problems with depression and alcohol, including a suicide attempt. He is often cited as an example of a strong and heroic person who was nevertheless vulnerable to PTSD, and has spoken about it publicly in order to destigmatize the condition.
- The term 'shell shock' originates in part from the trenches of the First World War; due to the immense and near-constant heavy bombardment that many troops were forced to live in and the vicious, near-uninhabitable living conditions, many soldiers simply snapped from the pressure and suffered mental and emotional breakdowns. Unfortunately for some of them, their superiors (whom, it should be noted, were frequently many miles away from the front) were in too many cases not at all sympathetic. That is to say, they had the soldiers court-martialed, and often executed, for "cowardice".
- It is worth noting that there are soldiers who are not psychopaths or sociopaths yet are somehow 'immune' to PTSD, or at least able to behave normally after the end of the conflict. While there are undoubtedly a large number of people who suffer from PTSD, there are also people who, despite having been put into high-stress situations and lost friends, can still live the rest of their lives without suffering any symptoms of PTSD. They may just have more psychological resilience than most people, but the answer is still unclear.
- Other factors also greatly reduce or prevent PTSD. They include acknowledgement of the person's experience (it goes a surprisingly long way just to help the person know that they aren't flawed for feeling the way they do), having social support, and no previous history of mental illness. Also, the older a person is when the traumatic experience happens, the less likely they are to develop PTSD, possibly because they have established ways of coping with the trauma and context for what is happening to them.
- There is some evidence that certain types of activities that 'desensitize' a person to violence (such as playing some types of video games) seems to reduce the effects of combat on many people. Given how debilitating PTSD is, anything that may help to reduce the incidence and severity needs to be looked at seriously.
- William Tecumseh Sherman, second in command of the Union armies during the The American Civil War had previously been relieved after having a near-psychotic break. He's the Trope Namer for War Is Hell for a reason.
- Ulysses S. Grant is also a likely sufferer of PTSD. He cried in his tent after every battle he commanded, and was so nauseated by the sight of blood that he couldn't eat undercooked meat.
- They were not alone. Doctors diagnosed "soldier's heart", which we can see, in hindsight, was PTSD. This was particularly likely in the final part of the war, where unrelenting campaigns racked up a fearful death toll.
- Charles White Whittlesey was the commander of The Lost Battalion in World War I. After the war, he received the Medal of Honor, and was much in demand for speeches and parades. Three years after the war he committed suicide. We don't know why exactly, but this trope seems like a pretty good guess.
- Adolfo Scilingo, a pilot responsible for dumping bodies during Argentina's Dirty War. He's so thoroughly traumatised by his experience that he actually wants to go to prison for his crimes, doesn't sleep, can't interact with his children, and generally speaking, hates himself.
- Finland ignored many international anti-drug treaties and refused to impose such laws because of PTSD — and the drug abuse resulting from it — being so commonplace amongst veterans after WWII. Only in the late 1970s were the drug laws taken seriously as many of the veterans were now in their fifties and sixties and past their prime.
- Much of the drug-related slang in the Finnish language can be traced to WWII.
- There was a psychologist who worked with autistic war veterans who had PTSD, but didn't get it from combat as one would expect. They had it because they had been bullied as children so badly that they had lasting psychological trauma from it.
- While talking about PTSD and Battle Fatigue was taboo in WW2, not every unit treated it lightly. The 8th Air Force for example decided very shortly after commencing regular daylight raids on Occupied Europe (and the maiming of bomber formations that came with it), that after a crew flew so many missions, they were to be sent home. And while 24 missions sounded good on paper, before P51 Mustangs started taking the bombers all the way to their targets and back, it was seen as almost impossible. On top of that, many German pilots specifically targeted bombers that had a large number of missions to try and break the will of the crews. Needless to say, the fact that any bomber crew hit the magic number before 1944 can be counted as a major miracle.
- Vietnam Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry - an essay by writer Gustav Hasford, himself a Vietnam War veteran, discussing the use and abuse of the "shell shocked veteran" trope. (Hasford's novel The Short-Timers was adapted into the film Full Metal Jacket.)