"There's only so much fight in a person. Only so much death you can take before..."War Is Glorious? Not to this guy. "Shell shock" is a nickname for what was eventually termed post-traumatic stress disorder, a real condition that participants in a war commonly acquire, but that can also be caused by a multitude of other means, often involving high-stress situations. In fiction, this character went through hell and he has done things that no amount of (fictional) therapy will heal, and it's left him so irrevocably scarred that he has trouble feeling, emoting, or caring about the people around him and even oneself. If he continues to feel anything, it's usually restricted to Survivor Guilt. Thus he's usually the first to do what must be done and Shoot the Dog. Most Shell-Shocked Veterans will, at some point or another, be seen exhibiting the classic Thousand-Yard Stare; with a blank, emotionless expression and unfocused, empty eyes. The war clearly never ended for him. In an ensemble show or a Five-Man Band, the Shell-Shocked Veteran is usually the Quiet Big Guy or Lancer. This often crosses into Aloof Big Brother territory if he insists on being a loner. 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. If the Shell-Shocked Veteran is out for revenge expect him to become an Antiheroic Hunter of Monsters, with varying degrees of success and sanity. 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. Expect him to have a Sympathetic Murder Backstory. They may be an Old Soldier, but are probably not a Blood Knight, and definitely not a Phony Veteran. Some may go From Camouflage to Criminal and take up a life of crime due to the mental distress they've been put under. Sub-Trope of The Stoic. Super Trope to The Vietnam Vet. Compare with Heroic B.S.O.D., Murder Makes You Crazy and Rape Leads to Insanity. Contrast War Is Glorious and Blood Knight (who is of that mindset).
— Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 3
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Anime & Manga
- Aldnoah.Zero has Koichiro Marito, a survivor of the first war between Earth and Mars. He personally bared witness to a Humongous Mecha that was able to manipulate gravity, was present during "Heaven's Fall" when the moon shattered and rained meteors on Earth, and was forced to kill his best friend and tank co-pilot to spare him a painful death from being trapped in a burning tank. The very latter event causes him to come down with severe PTSD.
- Area 88 has Mickey Simon, a U.S. Navy pilot who served in the Vietnam War. He found it very difficult to adjust to civilian life and convinced himself that he could not live without war. In the manga and OVA, Shin also becomes this after serving as a mercenary fighter pilot in the Asran civil war.
- Almost every single soldier in Attack on Titan is one, if they manage to be among the 50% that survive their first battle with the Titans. It is stated explicitly that it usually takes 20 deaths to down a single Titan, making the chances of any individual soldier surviving fairly poor. Those that do survive are left with the Survivor's Guilt of seeing their comrades die horribly. How well they function various from individual to individual, with all veteran soldiers in the Survey Corps being noticeably a little... strange in one way or another. The 104th Trainees Squad has the dubious honor of becoming this the day after their graduation from boot camp, with several either going mad from terror or taking their own lives rather than fight again.
- Eren Yeager pretends to be (at least a worse version than he already is) one of these in order to sneak into the enemy's military territory and "reunite" with Reiner Braun.
- The ex-revolutionary pirate Captain Harlock of his own eponymous series was one of the earliest examples of this trope in anime.
- City Hunter offers us Ryo, Umibozu and Kaibara. All of them fought on a civil war in Central America, a war that left them devastated and with self-destructive tendencies:
- Umibozu started as a mercenary for the government and was being scarred by the war, but didn't really become this until his whole platoon was destroyed in an ambush. By the time of the series he has apparently recovered;
- Ryo was around three when the plane on which he was with his family was shot down in the crossfire, and joined the rebels to survive. He became this after one of his companions dosed him with Angel Dust, horrified at what he did under its effects, and by the time the series starts he's a Hitman with a Heart with a terrifying sadistic streak and a Stepford Smiler, and those who knew him before he returned to Japan mentions he used to be a Death Seeker before meeting Hideyuki Makimura and his sister Kaori;
- Kaibara was a high-ranking member of the rebels, and Ryo's adopted father. Years of battles took a heavy toll on his sanity, and at one point he created Angel Dust to help the rebels and cut the war short, dosed Ryo with it and sicked him on Umibozu's platoon. By the time he shows up he's a madman hoping someone will kill him and stop his crimes.
- Darker Than Black:
- Havok. Understandable, since she had probably the highest body count of any contractor (which is saying something) whose remuneration was drinking children's blood— and then she got depowered and her normal emotions came back. By the time we see her, she's an Iron Woobie who begs Hei to kill her if her powers ever return.
- Hei himself, a stoic, disillusioned Anti-Hero who only really lets his real feelings show through when someone hits his Berserk Button: his sister, who disappeared during the weirdness at the end of Heaven's War.
- It's heavily implied that Future Trunks of the Androids Saga of Dragon Ball Z is of this trope, referring to the horrific events of his future (where two Red Ribbon Androids are slaughtering several people), and at least once stopping what he was doing unwittingly to flash back to what was going on in his timeline before snapping back to reality.
- In The Familiar of Zero, Colbert is haunted by his past as a soldier, and does his best to discourage his students from seeing war as a noble, idealistic quest, in an effort to prevent them from repeating his mistakes.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Dr. Knox is an Ishbal veteran who was so damaged by the war that his wife and son left him. He's incredibly scarred by what he had to do in the war, and hates any mention of the war or his comrades in it (though he does help out his old war buddy Roy Mustang when pressed). Knox may be redeemable, but he's still living in the war so far.
- The Brotherhood-only Isaac McDougal, AKA the Freezing Alchemist is very badly scarred by the war, and by what he knows about the Ancient Conspiracy. He goes AWOL for a couple of years, and then shows up again one day, attempting to put all of Central City under ice. Once you get further in the series, his plan doesn't seem so evil after all....
- In episode 16 of the first anime Ed comes across an Ishbal veteran (after getting off a train to find Al who was mistaken for cargo) who lost his leg in the war and refuses to have it replaced with automail because of the number of lives he took in the war.
- Roy Mustang himself is consumed with self-loathing, and is out to take over the country and then throw himself in prison as punishment for what he did in the war. He talks constantly about his familiarity with the smell of burnt flesh, is incapable of seeing himself in a positive light, and wants to fix Amestris or die trying.
- Riza Hawkeye, to the degree that it transforms her personality from a sweet, idealistic girl into a cold and emotionless soldier (at least on the surface), with self-destructive/suicidal tendencies that come out when she's under pressure. She ends up taking Solf J. Kimblee's advice, and memorising the faces of every person she's killed.
- Major Alex Louis Armstrong, who suffered his breakdown during the war when he saw the carnage he caused, and tried to help the only two survivors he could find escape. They were immediately blown up by Kimblee, who was ironically trying to help Armstrong avoid courtmartial. To make matters worse, he is actually considered a disgrace by his General Ripper of a sister, who constantly belittles him for cowardice despite not having served in Ishbal herself (though in this case, it's more that he didn't do anything about the injustice.)
- In the first anime, Roy Mustang also fits this trope for different reasons than his manga incarnation. He is shown attempting to commit suicide after killing Winry's parents but being unable to pull the trigger on himself. After a flashback-based conversation with his friend Maes Hughes — where Hughes calls him out for his self-pity — he becomes determined to use his abilities to fix the country of Amestris.
- Sōsuke Sagara, and his Evil Counterpart, Zaied from Full Metal Panic! fit this trope perfectly. They're both ex-Child Soldiers, they're both The Stoic and they both have serious mental issues. Sōsuke's are normally played for laughs. Zaied's aren't.
- Gintoki from Gintama. He lost a lot of allies while fighting on the losing side of the war, which is definitely not played for laughs (although almost every other aspect of his life is fair game).
- Miho Nishizumi, from Girls und Panzer. Surprisingly, for a Moe show. She's got a deer-in-the-headlights look whenever anyone puts more responsibility on her, has had a tremor in her left hand, and has something resembling a Heroic B.S.O.D. every time one of her allied tanks is taken out. She's got PTSD.
"How many times must I kill that girl and her dog?!"
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The horrible experiences he went through in the One Year War made Amuro "Shooting Star" Ray one of these. He only recovered 7 years later, in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Side materials reveal that it took him just a little longer to get back into space because he was afraid Lalah would be there.
- An even more extreme version is Kamille Bidan from Zeta Gundam, who...isn't doing well when he shows up in ZZ Gundam, due to a combination of war trauma and Mind Rape from archvillain Scirocco. Sidematerials indicate that this is also true of Titans second-in-command Bask Om. Captured and tortured in a Zeon POW camp during the One Year War, he emerged with a fanatical hatred of the colonials, and a desire to see them all dead. Bask may have physically left that camp, but mentally, he's still there.
- Athrun Zala becomes this by the time Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny rolls around. He's bitter, cynical, incapable of seeing anything but shades of grey, has some self-destructive tendencies, and cannot form meaningful connections to anyone who didn't serve alongside him in the first war. His ex-best friend/rival from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Kira Yamato, slowly becomes one of these over the course of the original show, hitting rock bottom and mental breakdown around the halfway point in the series. He seems to get better, but if the Thousand-Yard Stare, flashbacks, and newly stoic personality he displays at the start of Destiny are any indicator, he really hasn't. As for Shinn Asuka, he goes into the second war without having gotten over the death of his family (and particularly his sister) in the first conflict. In a lot of ways, Shinn seems to have emotionally frozen at the age he was when he found his sister's body, and has never actually moved on.
- Setsuna F. Seiei, was once a Child Soldier tricked into murdering his own parents in the name of God and fighting a fruitless war. Years later, he's still in Krugis, especially when he sees a town getting razed to the ground.. He gets better thanks to the best friend in his life, Marina Ismail.
- Flit Asuno is slowly becoming one, too, joining the other Gundam protagonists as bitter war veterans. Woolf Enneacle even puts it clearly, that as he fights on, he would want to kill more and more Unknown Enemies, no longer satisfied with a peaceful life. In the end, his son and his grandson manage to shock him out of his shell-shock.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing gives us Heero Yuy, who befriended a little girl and her puppy, and accidentally killed them both.
- Treize Khushrenada is another example. He knows exactly how many men have died for him and remembers all their names. He thinks war is beautiful and later on commits Suicide by Cop. This should tell you what kind of an affect war had on him.
- After War Gundam X has Captain Jamil Neate. Flashbacks show him as a fresh-faced teenage Ace Pilot. Present-day Jamil is scarred on his face and soul both and has become one of the endlessly roving, scavenging Vultures in a quest to find other Newtypes and protect them from becoming soldiers like he was. Having fired the shot that provoked the rebels into the mass Colony Drop that nearly wiped out humankind on Earth, Jamil has a hell of a guilt complex, lost his Newtype powers, and a severe cockpit phobia that he doesn't start overcoming until a third of the way through the series.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans gives a myriad of examples, due to most of the cast being Child Soldiers, and many being former Human Debris, slaves sold to fight and die as cannon fodder. The protagonist, Mikazuki, is shown to disassociate to an extreme degree, allowing all of his decisions to be made by his friend Orga. And he is far from alone in this, as we see Tekkadan's younger members demand to watch as Mika disassembles an enemy commander who killed one of their own. Finally, on the opposing side we have Ein, a rookie pilot who is eventually consumed by his anger and guilt due to the death of his superior officer at Tekkadan's hands. It ends with what's left of his body being installed inside a mobile suit, snarling at the Gundam as he rants about Crank and wildly flails his axes in hopes of crushing Mika.
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure: While this is mostly came from fan theories, it is truly possible that Jotaro Kujo developed a PTSD after his adventures in Stardust Crusaders, particularly following the Final Battle with DIO. Evidence of this can be seen in all of the parts that have Jotaro as a supporting character post-Stardust Crusaders.
- Part 4: He is seen to be frightened when Angelo mentions DIO, and he beats the living shit out of Kira after Kira (a blonde-haired man like DIO) said that his Stand is now weak, says the word "Muda" (DIO's catchphrase and Battle Cry), mentions how many time he has left before leaving (The World's time-stopping ability always have Dio mentioning how many seconds left when he do his time stop), and Jotaro seeing Koichi having a hole in the chest after being punched by Killer Queen (this is what kills Kakyoin in Part 3).
- Part 5: He sent Koichi instead of himself to meet Giorno, DIO's illegitimate son.
- Part 6: He completely flips out when Pucci throws a flurry of knifes towards his daughter Jolyne, much like what he experienced in Stardust Crusaders.
- Valmet of Jormungand saw her entire unit wiped out during her first command in the field. The scars(Both mental, and physical) are still carried with her, though she manages to not let it interfere with her work.
- Teenage mercenary Kazuma Shudo of Kagerou-Nostalgia is very, very shellshocked. He can't stand being touched, is prone to violent moodswings, suffers flashbacks and throws himself into every battle without any concern for his own well-being. It's a combination of war trauma, and what he went through when his Doomed Hometown was destroyed. While he does get better, he's never far from a breakdown.
- In The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, the crew encounters the corpse of a shell-shocked soldier from the imperial army. The soldier had been part of the Rape of Nanking and broke. Upon his return home after the war he re-enacted what he'd lived through on his home village, only to have the massacre covered up because of the prestige loss if it had gone public.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, one of the villains, specifically Dynamis, is like this due to being one of the only members of his organization who survived the 20+ years of being hunted down by the good guys.
- Nemo, deposed king of destroyed Atlantis from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
- Surprisingly few shinobi suffer from this trope in Naruto; however, Kakashi Hatake seems to be a textbook example, having lost his father, his best friend Obito (who gave him his left eye as a permanent memento and later turns up alive and a villain responsible for much of the bad things that have occurred in the last sixteen years, including their teacher Minato's death), his potential love interest Rin (who he himself killed), and his mentor Minato. As such, when Sasuke demanded to know how Kakashi would react if he killed everyone that Kakashi cared about, his reply was to simply smile and say that he had already lost everyone precious to him. The reason Kakashi was always late for his training sessions with his genin team? Every morning he spends hours just standing in front of the Konoha memorial to dead shinobi to honor his comrades' memory. The anime goes in and does a masterful anime expansion of the immediate aftermath of Rin's Heroic Sacrifice. Kakashi has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he keeps seeing Rin die by his hands, keeps having nightmares, becomes far, far more withdrawn, and he couldn't even use his Chidori anymore since he kept thinking of Rin. All at 13 years old. You have to wonder why Konoha doesn't have a grief counselor that Minato assigned to Kakashi.
- This is apparently why Itachi became a Well-Intentioned Extremist, and it's definitely what turned Pain and Konan to the dark side, with the latter in particular willing to follow the last friend she has all the way to the bottom of the slippery slope. In general, a major theme in the series is that senseless war and the system it produces are the primary culprits in creating most of the world's villains.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion deserves a special mention, having had his mind broken at the tender age of 14 due to fighting Skyscraper-sized Aliens (or something) while being forced into it by his father. Oh, and Asuka Langley Soryu, who went through a similar process to Shinji, but also managed to have the Trope Namer of Mind Rape inflicted on her.
- The Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 version of Shinji fits this better, back in Alpha 1, along with the events of Evangelion (Including the End Of Evangelion but they stopped the MP'ed EVA's before the Third Impact could occur) happening, he was fighting a war with aliens, MORE monsters, and OTHER PEOPLE. Zoom forward about 2 years to Alpha 3(Eva missed @ Gaiden and @2) Shinji's freaked out by what he saw during the chaos, but tries to offset it by being Older and Wiser and has mostly shed his old hedgehog problem. Then the events of Eva start happening AGAIN, he's mostly prepared for it until everyone except the Alpha Numbers are tanged. The shell-shocked part is finally dropped after Third Impact is reversed.
- In the third movie of Rebuild of Evangelion, nearly everyone from the cast becomes this due to Third Impact and having to fight for the past 14 years in a war against SEELE.
- Rurouni Kenshin: The title character, who was a teenager with huge guilt issues and an extremely naive view of the world when he was recruited to be an assassin, and the ensuing strain on his conscience (combined with accidentally killing the woman he loved, who fell in love with him while trying to get revenge for him murdering her original fiancee) broke him so hard he became a Technical Pacifist and didn't resolve his issues until years later.
- By the time she debuts in the main manga, Minako Aino of Sailor Moon is this, courtesy of what happened in her solo series: a year of battles alone, that started when she had to kill her crush and ended when she had to kill her true love. She refuses to let anyone know.
- Kambei, the main protagonist of Samurai 7, who has grown so tired of always leading the losing side that it is implied that he has become a Death Seeker. The same goes for his counterpart in the original live-action classic movie.
- Sound of the Sky:
- In Sword Art Online, Kirito is a survivor of the titular death game. Not counting the game-master, Kirito has killed three murderers in close combat, and he made a mistake that directly led to the deaths of three of his comrades (including his girlfriend) and led to the suicide of a fourth in front of him. Both these experiences left him severely traumatized, to the point of becoming suicidal on one occasion and being filled with terror just being reminded about the people he killed a year later. Well, There Are No Therapists in Aincrad, and after getting out, he put so much focus on his physical recovery that he didn't actually confront his mental state for a year.
- Violet is an unconventional case in Violet Evergarden. Life as a soldier and weapon of war did not bother Violet as she never knew anything else but war. It wasn't until she finally lived as a civilian and understood her own emotions, the bloody memories of what she had done during the war are seen in a different light and she is appropriately horrified.
- Van from The Vision of Escaflowne after he mercilessly slaughtered the Zaibach pilots who destroyed his hometown when he merged with his Escaflowne fueled by rage and hatred, after it's over he became traumatized by the experience and was reminded of the event every time he picked up a sword.
- Kurosaki and Yuto from Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V both count, as survivors of a genocide and inter-dimensional war that was enabled through Duel Monster disks empowered by Magitek to the point where a single duelist can and has used the game to fire-bomb an entire city. Both show violent tendencies and Kurosaki is clearly paranoid, plus both have PTSD-like flashbacks with Yuto's being strong enough to affect Yuya, after absorbing Yuto's soul.
- Togo from Yuki Yuna Is a Hero was a Hero in elementary however has no memories of the fact. Even with her amnesia she is still subconsciously scared of having to be a Hero. At first it seems like she is afraid that she will be The Load due to her wheelchair however it's later revealed to be more sinister. She is still traumatized by her past experiences as a Hero.
- 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.
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."
- 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.
- Marshal Law:
- Suicida, leader of Gang Green, 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: 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.
- Cyclops, at least since the start of the 00s. Losing two wives, being possessed by Apocalypse, and having his people repeatedly genocide'd and left on the brink of being wiped out has left him incredibly broken, which in large part is likely why he's became so ruthless in defending what little he has left. And let's not even get started on what happened after he killed his father while under the control of the Phoenix Force.
- Bucky Barnes, especially under his Winter Soldier identity. Captain America himself to some extent has shown shades of this in recent years.
- 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 Achille 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.
- In The Flintstones were guilt-tripped into fighting a war against the Tree People who were allegedly a threat to their families. Fred and Barney are still messed up from it, and the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes is a support group for them and other participants.
- Ishmael of Copperhead seems to be one: in addition to his literal scars, he specifically avoids larger conflicts (though he's up for a fight now and then) and has retreated to a hermitage outside town to limit his contact with other people.
- 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."
- Neon Genesis Evangelion fics, like canon, feature this often.
There was a certain logic to what Mana was saying. In a way, despite only being fourteen, Shinji was a kind of… injured veteran. Who had done his duty heroically and saved everyone, but had the mental wounds to show for it. That idea fit very well to Asuka’s notions of EVA pilots as an elite fighting troop. It wasn’t that Shinji was weak; rather it was time that others took over for him. And Asuka was definitely up to the task.
- A Crown of Stars: When the story begins, Shinji and Asuka have gone through a war against giant aliens (in which they got constantly hurt, mind-raped and actually died), the end of the world, living in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by warlords, being forced to work for dictators... they have endured so much misery, pain and trauma after long years of conflict that when the story begins they are barely functional. They are bitter, jaded and soul-weary and not looking forward to the future. And they are not even nineteen.
- Advice and Trust: Shinji and Asuka are teen kids being forced to wage a war against Eldritch Abominations. The constant battles and hardships were wearing down their precarious mental stability, but after getting together they lean on each other to try to overcome the pain and have something stable to cling to.
- The Child of Love: As seen in the sequels, Shinji and Asuka tried to put so much distance as possible between them and NERV after the war for their and their daughter's sake. However the ordeals of the past still affects them, and they still are forced to deploy their giant robots every so often, despite of Shinji telling they are sick of killing people.
- Children of an Elder God:
- After fighting and defeating a bunch of cosmic horrors from the Cthulhu Mythos, Shinji and Asuka are so traumatized that they feel they no longer fit into human society so that they say goodbye to their remaining friends and leave civilization forever.
- Rei, too. She commits Heroic Sacrifice while stating that normal life is not for her.
- Doing It Right This Time: Before being sent back to the past Shinji and Asuka were heavily traumatized and barely sane after the Angel War and Third Impact. After a last violent fight they decided to kill themselves because even death seemed a better option than remaining in a dead world. Then the two of them and Rei got flung back to the past and they started dealing with their issues in... unique ways.
- Evangelion 303: After surviving a failed mission, Asuka suffered from Survivor Guilt. She was full of anger, hatred and self-loathing, and anything made her snapping. And she stopped laughing or getting fun. She did not even want to get fun. After a second failure she tried to shoot her brains off, but Shinji stopped her. From that point he helped her to get better.
- Ghosts of Evangelion: Shinji and Asuka suffer from post-traumatic distress and other mental traumas after the war. Several decades after the Third Impact they are still struggling to keep their PTDS at bay, be functional people and decent parents.
- Asuka survived the War but she had been beaten, humiliated, mind-raped and disfigured permanently. For many years she was mad at everything, everyone and herself, seeing herself as an ugly, scarred, one-eyed freak and a worthless failure. She needed a lot of therapy to learn to open up to others.
- Shinji became quieter and more introvert after the battle of 2015. He hardly talked any of his schoolmates who were not his old friends and his ex-roommate. He was also severely depressed and a borderline suicidal.
- Higher Learning: The constant, brutal battles against giant, super-powerful aliens as well as her Mind Rape wore Asuka's psyche down to the point that she was permanently depressed and barely functional at the end of the war.
- Once More with Feeling: After living through the war and Third Impact Shinji got sent to the beginning of everything. Although he is trying to grow a spine, become a better person and do things right this time, he is heavily traumatized and feeling inmensely guilty for everyone's deaths. Some characters note that he seems older and more tired than a fourteen-years-old should, and Kaji is amazed that Shinji has not tried to kill himself yet.
- The One I Love Is: Although Shinji, Asuka and Rei survived the War and their relationship made them slightly psychologically stronger they were still traumatized. Several years later Shinji still felt guilty for his friends' pain, Asuka was afraid of having children, and Rei regressed and became emotionless again for a while.
- In The Second Try, Shinji and Asuka were deeply traumatized after the Angel War and Third Impact. The After the End chapters narrate how they were forced to mature and overcome their issues in order to survive, and how they got better eventually.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide:
- Although Shinji has recovered a bit from Kaworu's death, he's badly traumatized, has given up any hope of having a healthy relationship with his father, and he doesn't know how to fix his relationship with Asuka.
- At the beginning, Asuka is in a coma after having tried to kill herself. Although she eventually comes to, she's very bitter and angry due to her Mind Rape and believing no one cares about her at all.
- Rei had gotten a bit better at socializing during the war, but with her Heroic Sacrifice having resulted in her getting brought back as Rei III, she feels disconnected from the memories of her predecessor and regresses to her former emotionless state.
- Original Character, Junichi Nakayima, a former grunt turned spy, also has a case, but it is Downplayed. Though he is quite mentally stable, he notes that his experiences in the military admittedly has damaged him psychologically and made it hard for him to care for and relate emotionally to the people around him and he also makes references to having been ordered to do several questionable things on the frontlines he has since come to regret, and in hindsight he considers his decision to join the army to be a pivotal mistake in his life, if not his worst mistake ever.
- In Neon Metathesis Evangelion, Asuka and Mana acknowledge how piloting and fighting angels has already taken its toll on Shinji.
- 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.
- In Origins, Samantha Shepard lands square in this category, from her Heroic B.S.O.D. that led to a series of barbaric acts to her painful realization that no matter how human she might be, the entire galaxy will keep throwing itself on her shoulders no matter how badly she screws up. She goes through a lot of crap.
- 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, he seems to be at least a mild example.
- The Wizard in the Shadows
- Harry 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.
- Maglor's not much better. In fact, he's probably worse, his personality switching from Really Gets Around Crazy Awesome Cloud Cuckoo Lander to The Mentor to the Blood Knight without much, if any, warning.
- Child of the Storm, by the same author as the above:
- It's implied 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 (and later, Dani Moonstar), though that's mostly for his abandonment issues. Later on, he develops full on PTSD, as does Carol Danvers, with one reviewer who'd suffered from PTSD remarking that the descriptions were dead on. It only gets worse in the sequel.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hogyoku ex Machina: Ishida is disturbed at how Ichigo the Hot-Blooded Leeroy Jenkins with Chronic Hero Syndrome has become willing to murder in cold blood, yet is still mentally sound.
- 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 shaking. After the horrid things he's been through, it's understandable.
- Vietnam and its two sequels, 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 Mobile Suit 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.
- 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.
- In Hope for the Heartless, which is set after the events of The Black Cauldron, Taran the pig-keeper is revealed to have had Flashback Nightmares of the Horned King’s death almost every night for months. While his friends seem to have moved on with their lives, Taran's nightmares have driven him to regret his dreams of becoming a warrior, or wishing that he had never been involved in the lich's death, or even that he had thrown himself to the Black Cauldron instead of Gurgi. He continuously dwells upon the morality of his actions back then, never finding a comforting answer, and he hasn't told anyone of his dreams (though he suspects that Dallben and Eilonwy have their suspicions). It leads him to become greatly shocked when he encounters by chance the resurrected Horned King who attacks him yet spares him due to the lich's Morality Pet Avalina.
- Shinnen New Year gives us the canon version of Shu Ouma, who is traumatized since he loss Inori years ago and is attempting to get over it by celebrating New Years with various crossover characters.
- Teresa in Secret Dreamer was nearly killed when the Risen attacked Ylisstol. She eventually confides to Severa that she still has Bad Dreams.
- Green Ice interprets Bertie Wooster as one, having been so broken by his experiences in the trenches that he's in denial about the whole war ever having happened and retreated into a sort of fantasy. This seems to have affected more than just his memory, as his frivolousness, dependency on Jeeves and inability to plan for the future all appear to be the result of his experiences in WWI.
- Tsuji Anthony Ricardsen from Soul Eater: Troubled Souls becomes one in the third arc. Even with prior two-year training before enrollment, on just his second mission Tsuji tangoes with death and crushing defeat on Cobra Island and suffers a series of Heroic BSODs that makes him more somber in demeanor. He says he goes through nightmares in the middle of night and cannot move on. Not to mention, there is apparently something from his past coming back to haunt him. He envisions the face of the Kishin Egg that nearly killed him five years back. He is only 15-years-old.
- In Metroid Kamen Rider Generations (link):
- The events of the Forbidden Fruit Saga of Kamen Rider Gaim took a toll on Micchy as the result of his own nefarious actions. What's left of a once young, intelligent, calculative and scheming person is now an insecure and isolated man, who can barely make fun of other people to hide his pain. He got better.
- When Micchy is suffering from PTSD in one chapter, Samus must defuse the situation by providing support and listening actively to his feelings.
- Link in Insomnia. He is physically ten years old but due to his earlier adventures, he behaves like a weary warrior who's seen too many battles, including having flashbacks and keeping count of his kills some time during Ocarina of Time.
- In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, Shining Armor shows signs of increasing paranoia and obsession as a direct result of Chrysalis' mind control. Estermann and the ex-soldier Mjoberg lampshade this heavily.
- 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!
- Chiaki Nanami in Extra Life is left traumatized and afflicted with PTSD after her torture. Besides having nightmares, the sight of an elevator causes her to flashback to the ordeal, and she feels guilty for surviving when her friends came out, in her opinion, worse. She actually does get therapy from Izuru Kamukura, and while that does help her learn to live with it, she's still haunted.
- In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Lt. Surge is a downplayed example. While he's for the most part a nice and respectful guy in general, if a bit cocksure, it's clear that his time in the war has taken his toll on him, and during Christmas time he often mourns his deceased war buddies.
- In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl is finally getting burned out after spending fourteen years fighting endlessly crooks, villains and eldritch abominations day after day. To the point that, when the adult Legion of Super-Heroes comes along to drag her into another life or death battle, Kara has a break-down.
Dev-Em: Kara. Will you shut up and let them talk?
Kara: I will not shut up and they can damned well talk after I’m finished! And I’m not finished! I serve in the Crisis and I almost die, I get my guts torn open, and luckily I get helped out by another Supergirl and healed by Raven. Almost Death #1. Then the Legion, my Legion, has me come to the 30th and I have to go to Hell and fight Mordru, and Satan Girl almost beats me to death. I still don’t know how Dev brought me back, but I’m thankful he did. Thank you, Dev.
Dev-Em: You’re welcome.
Kara: Shut up! That’s Almost Death #2, Then we go back to the 20th and everybody gets into a big gang war with everybody else, and I wind up on Apokolips and save everybody from that damned Anti-Life Equation, and I’m the only one on her feet to fight Darkseid, and he damned near disintegrates me. Almost Death #3. Am I seeing a pattern here? And now... now... you snatch me and Dev from what was supposed to be a peaceful weekend of relaxing and, and seeing the sights, and catching up with old Legion friends and, oh, you know what all else, and now whoomp! I’m in whatever time I’m in, and you say that magic word ‘Darkseid’, and I’m supposed to drop everything and sign up for the latest crusade, and I DON’T WANT TO!
Kara: (sighing, crouching and hiding her face) I. Am. Just. Getting. So. Damned. Tired.
- In Steven Universe And The Hunters Of Arcadia, while his behavior may be partially due to the horrifying magical experiments done on him to turn him into a changeling and the stress of being in the Janus Order, Jamie seems to possess a level of trauma from being nearly abducted by Topaz and Aquamarine.
- Becoming the Mask: During his fight against Draal in the Hero's Forge, Jim briefly loses himself, thinking for a moment that he was fighting for his life in Gunmar's crucible.
- While normally the timid and sarcastic boy he has always been, a mix of the Romans destroying Helgafjall and the people he has come to call his own and Cold-Blooded Torture by Alvin the Treacherous has left Hiccup in The Boy Behind The Mask with internal scars that turn him into The Berserker should any of his friends or family be threatened, nearly killing Snotlout when he called Katja a whore and mowing down countless Outcasts (even cleaving Savage in-half) with inhuman ferocity.
Films — Animation
- Skipper, a WWII Corsair, from Planes is this, having lost his entire squadron on their first mission. It traumatized him so badly, that he cannot even bring himself to fly any more, which is pretty significant considering he's a plane.
- Thoroughly played for laughs in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, where the traumatized and cynical mercenary hired to help La Résistance is not discernibly older than the protagonists, themselves nine-year-olds.
- Both Calhoun and Markowski in Wreck-It Ralph. Calhoun was designed with a traumatic past by the designers of Hero's Duty, while the unfortunate Mauve Shirt Markowski has gone into shell-shock after only two weeks.
Ralph: I thought it would be like Centipede! When did video games become so violent and scary?!
Films — Live-Action
- Major West from 28 Days Later. He starts off as your standard rational-minded, stoic Officer and a Gentleman type but further probing reveals things are much, much worse. After the loss of what remains of his unit — all of eight men — to Jim's Roaring Rampage of Revenge, he just plain goes insane.
- Across the Universe: By the time the film ends, the former Deadpan Snarker Ivy League frat boy Max has become this, because of Vietnam.
- In Act of Violence, both Frank and Joe aren’t integrating back into civilian life that well. Frank is able to keep up a happy façade, but eventually breaks down when the memories of his POW life haunt him. On the other hand, Joe could never possibly assimilate until he accomplishes his insane idea of murdering Frank.
- Spoofed in Airplane!, where the protagonist is a shell-shocked fighter pilot who ends up having to fly a jet airliner.
- Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies (after the first one) is another James Cameron example.
- American Sniper: Chris Kyle becomes this by the third act of this film, not because of all the people he's killed (or so he insists), but rather due to Chronic Hero Syndrome and Survivor Guilt.
- Parodied in Anger Management with a Shell-Shocked Veteran...who fought in the Grenada Invasion, which lasted less than two months with very few casualties.
- Colonel Kurtz is technically still at war in Apocalypse Now, but boy has the cheese slid off his cracker.
- Also Captain Willard, who is already quite messed up when the film begins and we can only imagine what goes on in his head by the end. Lance eventually shows this as well.
- The three protagonists of The Best Years of Our Lives, returning home from WWII. Al can no longer relate to his wife or his children who grew up without him, and is turning into an alcoholic. Fred, a retired bomber pilot, finds himself having Bad Dreams wherein he relives dramatic war scenes. Homer lost his hands in the war and is now ashamed of his artificial hooks which makes him feeling uncomfortable around his family or his girl-next-door sweetheart.
- Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. Possibly subverted, as a cut scene reveals he was never in Nam.
- Black Dynamite in Black Dynamite speaks about his past and a his story about a dead Viet Cong child.
- Roy Scheider's character Frank Murphy in Blue Thunder is a Vietnam veteran who suffers occasional flashbacks of an NVA soldier falling out of a helicopter that he was piloting. This turns out to be plot-significant, as his nemesis, Colonel Cochrane, is the one who threw the soldier out. The Epiphany Therapy following this realization allows him to defeat Cochrane.
- Played for laughs in Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke when Pedro de Pacas (Cheech Marin) takes Man (Tommy Chong) to meet his cousin Strawberry (Tom Skerritt), the comedic epitome of this trope. Hilarity Ensues.
- Frankie Dunlan in Combat Shock is a Vietnam veteran who has flashbacks of being ambushed by an NVA squad and being tortured as a POW.
- Desert Heat features Eddie Lomax, a Returning War Vet who's Driven to Suicide at the begining of the film.
- All four main characters in The English Patient.
- In The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Hugh Grant plays a cartographer visiting the small and idyllic Welsh village of Ffynnon Garw. Many people there go by their nicknames alone: for example Thomos Twp and Thomas Twp Two, a pair of brothers with mental disabilities; Thommy Twostroke who fixes motor engines; Evans the End of the World; and poor Johnny (Shellshocked) Jones, normally referred to as Johnny Shellshocked. A good portion of the film dedicates itself to his difficult recovery from the War to End All Wars, as he overcomes his terror of large hills, starts talking again and joins the rest of the town in climbing it.
- Likewise, Clint Eastwood in Firefox.
- Flags of Our Fathers is the true story of the aftermaths of the five Marines and Navy Hospital Corpsman who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
- Godzilla (1954) gives us Daisuke Serizawa, a brilliant but quiet scientist who wears a eyepatch. The reason he does so is because he's fought in World War II. The end result is losing his left eye and a horrible scar. And as the creator of the Oxygen Destroyer, he makes it clear he did not want to use it as a weapon, but the titular monster utterly destroys his hometown of Tokyo, forcing him to change his mind and use it against Godzilla.
- Senior Chief Randall in The Guardian wasn't in a war, unless you count the constant battle against the elements, but he still has flashbacks to one mission in particular in which he was the Sole Survivor.
- Steve Butler (played by Tommy Lee Jones) in the 1993 movie Heaven and Earth, based on the Vietnam War.
- Tydeus in Hercules (2014) is an extreme example. His war experiences left him unable to speak, but Hercules tells us he relives them every night.
- Spoofed again in Hot Shots! with Tug Benson (Lloyd Bridges). At a soldier's funeral, he mistakes the 21-gun salute for an enemy attack... and responds in kind. Also, every possible part of him is a replacement to a war loss (exception: "My skin's made of asbestos. Tanning parlor accident at Dien Bien Phu.").
- Katniss in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Being in two Hunger Games and a civil war will do that to you. The very first scene even opens with her in a Troubled Fetal Position, desperately trying to calm herself before she's given tranquilizers.
- Jacob Singer in Jacob's Ladder appears to be this at first, but instead it's an aversion: he's already died, and has to come to terms with this fact and ultimately forsake his former life.
- The Last Command: Sergius, former general of the Russian Empire, now a struggling movie extra.
- Nathan Algren from The Last Samurai.
- Let There Be Light is a 1946 U.S. Army documentary film by John Huston showing the therapy given to traumatized veterans returning from overseas. Although the film is actually quite optimistic, with all the soldiers fully recovered after an eight-week stay, the portrayal of deeply damaged veterans so displeased the Army that it shelved the movie. The film wasn't made available until 1980.
- Frodo becomes one at the end of The Lord of the Rings.
- In the 2015 film of Macbeth, Macbeth is portrayed as having PTSD, which gives a different angle to some of the story's supernatural elements: vision or hallucination?
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark is traumatized by the events of The Avengers — where he not only spent hours fighting an alien horde, but nearly died destroying their mothership. As a result, he barely sleeps, has nightmares when he does, and has panic attacks every time someone asks about "the battle of New York."
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap and the Falcon are "wounded warriors" who become friends through their mutual trauma of losing a close friend on the battlefield.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron shows Tony still had traces of it. Once Scarlet Witch makes him see his worst fear, that would be evil aliens attacking and killing the other Avengers dead but leaving him alive. This inspires him to revive an old idea for defense against superpowered invaders — and it all goes down from there.
- Agent K from Men in Black. In the third movie, we find out this isn't because of his career fighting aliens, but because he saw Agent J's father die and had to comfort J, who at the time was just a little boy named James looking for his father. And this was after he had met grown-up J, who had time-traveled from the future, and realized that he was talking to his future colleague.
- Parodiednote in Not Another Teen Movie, with Randy Quaid's character. Doubles as a Casting Gag: Quaid played a shell-shocked Vietnam Vet in the 80s teen film The Wild Life.
- Addressed briefly in Patton, when the title general lambasts a traumatized soldier for what was then called "Battle Fatigue" but which Patton calls cowardice.
- Rambo was a POW in Vietnam and was tortured thoroughly. In a scene in First Blood, cops have him locked down in the cell block and torture him with a firehose before restraining him to try shaving him. Rambo has a flashback to getting partially flayed in Vietnam and freaks out, beating his tormentors and escaping.
- Major Randolph Doryan, the commander of the British Army base near Kirrary in Ryan's Daughter, is a shell-shocked veteran of the trenches in World War I; in one scene, village idiot Michael is absently tapping his leg on a pub bench, and the noise causes Doryan to flash back to his war experiences and temporarily go into a catatonic state.
- As summed up by world & war-weary Kambei in The Seven Samurai after the good guys have won at the cost of the lives of four of the seven comrades: So. Again we are defeated. The farmers have won. Not us.
- In Stalag 17, Joey suffers from this and for much of the movie has a blank look on his face, Only when he is playing his ocarina and watching the mole get his well-deserved fate does he smile.
- Stop Loss is considered a Spiritual Successor to The Best Years of Our Lives, highlighting the troubles of returning Iraq War soldiers. One character in particular is an alcoholic who can't relate to his wife, and she opts to just slap him with a restraining order rather than deal with him. The protagonist also has hallucinations and nightmares over all the people he's killed.
- Ax-Crazy character Bronson in the movie Street Trash is an extreme example of this trope.
- In The Substitute, Shale clearly has some hangups about Vietnam and uses his experiences to discipline students. "You had to be resourceful in Vietnam!" - Said after injuring a student with a soda can.
- Asshole Victim Harry March in Sweet Country is a veteran of the Boer War, and is hinted to have PTSD which contributes to his alcoholism and erratic behaviour.
- Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day embodies this, and all its positive and negative connotations.
- The character Parker in Troma's War, who seems to be a spoof of director Oliver Stone(apparently an old friend of the film's director Lloyd Kaufman).
- Parodied, then subverted with Tropic Thunder's Four Leaf Tayback, who it's later revealed made everything up, including his amputated hands.
- Pretty much every survivor from Bingo Crepuscule trench in A Very Long Engagement. Except Manech has amnesia; he might not be scarred.
- The War: Stu's dad suffers from this and the prejudice people have toward it.
- In the 2011 film Warrior:
- Tommy is a veteran of the Iraq war.
- Paddy as well. If his drunken ramblings are historically accurate, he was reliving his closest friends and coworkers heading toward certain doom courtesy of a dumbass leader.
- One of the news segments in WNUF Halloween Special is about a shellshocked Vietnam veteran, who shot a kid whom he mistook for a Vietcong insurgent when he appeared on his door for trick or treat.
- The film Windtalkers begins by showing Sgt. Joe Enders fighting the Imperial Japanese Army in WW2, which also shows events that leads to him being shell-shocked; events that would play a major role in developing his character throughout the film and how events proceeds.
- Charlie, the team's Friendly Sniper in Wonder Woman (2017), has been officially discharged, but Steve convinces him to return for One Last Job. When liberating Veld, the team comes under fire from a sniper in a bell tower. Charlie takes aim... and has a nervous breakdown. At another point, he wakes up screaming "Don't go in there!" He suggests he go home, but Diane (having even less concept of PTSD than anyone around her) suggests he stay, because they wouldn't have anyone to sing for them (Steve mentions he hadn't heard Charlie sing in years).
- Exaggerated in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in a bedroom exchange between a traumatized Logan (whose healing powers make him well over a hundred years old) and his lover Silver Fox.
Silver Fox: Was it the war?
Silver Fox: Which one?
Logan: All of them.
- You Were Never Really Here: Joe is a severaly traumatized man who has frequent flashbacks to his time overseas. One particular moment that haunts him is giving a local boy a candy bar and then watching that boy get murdered over the candy bar only moments later.
- In the Stephen King short story 1408, Enslin becomes totally paranoid after his experience.
- Alexis Carew becomes one of these over the course of the first three books due to a string of misadventures: losing several members of a prize crew she commanded when the Space Pirates they were riding herd on briefly retook the ship, sustained abuse by a sexist CO who meant to drive her out of the service altogether, and then losing almost her entire crew commanding a You Shall Not Pass! against a far superior ship. By HMS Nightingale she's developed recurring nightmares and a bit of a drinking problem. An Enforced Trope: the author's notes on the subject state that he didn't find it credible that other Military Science-Fiction protagonists wouldn't develop issues dealing with their war experiences.
- 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.
- The entire series is basically a case study in six teenagers becoming this trope. Once the war actually ends, Jake is the most obvious / classic form of this, while Sad Clown Marco is of the "successful life empty inside" kind.
- Rachel doesn't feel anything like this, though — which gravely concerns her (and just about everybody) thanks to what it says about her.
- Loren describes her father as a shell of his former self ever since he came home from Vietnam.
- Jake's great-grandfather was a World War II vet who, while no details are given, clearly saw a lot and never fully recovered. Jake gives a lot of thought to the possibility of ending up like him over the course of book 31. Interestingly, he saw a lot of his "old soul" in Jake before the series even began.
- 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.
- In Bubble World, as Todd Piloski makes his war games more real, they start to mess with people's health like real war would.
- From Iain M. Bank's Culture novels, GSV Lasting Damage later the Masaq' Hub mind is a rather depressed veteran of the Culture-Idirian War.
- Sweeney Todd is one in Terry Pratchett's book Dodger, rather than being a (deliberate) murderer - he keeps seeing his customers as horribly wounded comrades-in-arms, so he gives them an unwanted Mercy Kill.
- 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.
- 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.
- And it's mentioned in The Other Side of Dawn, the last book in The Tomorrow Series, that many of her neighbors show signs of having seen too much war.
- 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.)
- Several Harry Potter characters, including Harry and Snape. And Alastor Moody, who became badly scarred both physically and mentally during his career as an Auror, leading him to become Properly Paranoid to the point where his Catch-Phrase is "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"
- 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.
- Zigzagged with Finnick, who initially seems possibly the most well-adjusted person to come out of the games, and even deals with what happens to him after them quite well, but is severley depressed for a good chunk of Mockingjay when Annie is captured by the capitol. He seems to mostly be able to hold himself together, but its fragile and largely for other people's benefit.
- A well-known phenomenon in the Hurog duology. They call it "soldier's dreams", and when Oreg gets the blank stare, Ward immediately correctly diagnoses him with PTSD, even though he doesn't know that name. It's a good thing he knows what it is, as Oreg's bouts of re-living past events tend to be visible — Ward can see wounds appearing on his body.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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). 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.)
- 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."
- 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.
- Seerdomin from the Malazan Book of the Fallen has been thoroughly broken by the things he witnessed and did as a commanding officer under the Seer's tyrannic holy war. While he still sometimes tries to talk sense into his superiors, he wilts at the slightest resistance and accepts his reality stoically. He considers his ideals devoured by the world he lives in.
- 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 B.S.O.D. 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.
- 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.
- In the short story "Nightcrawlers", by Robert R. McCammon, the main character is a Vietnam vet. The kicker: his nightmares have come to life and stalk him at a truck stop. The story was adapt into an episode of The Twilight Zone.
- 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.
- 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.
- Paradise Rot: Oscar Pilson has been in so many wars and conflicts, as both a soldier and later a mercenary, that he can't seem to stop getting into even more.
- 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.
- Scott from The Power of Five, With Good Reason. Poor guy.
- Taybard Jaekel in the later Rigante novels.
- 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.
- 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, the disastrous Somme campaign in particular. 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.
- Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five. It's implied (though not explicit) throughout the text of the book that his claimed time-traveling and alien encounters are nothing more than a coping mechanism for severe PTSD.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has several examples.
War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know. Then they get a taste of battle. For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. [...] All thought of home is gone by then, and kings and lords and gods mean less to him than a haunch of spoiled meat that will let him live another day, or a skin of bad wine that might drown his fear for a few hours. The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man. Lady Brienne is not wrong. In times like these, the traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them... but he should pity them as well.
- Eddard Stark survived Robert's Rebellion with quite a few psychological scars. Seeing the bodies of Rhaegar Targaryen's murdered children was especially traumatic. He also has nightmares about his sister's death and the fight at the Tower of Joy.
- Sandor Clegane eventually has a psychological break during the Battle of Blackwater and deserts the Lannister army.
- Arya is implied to have PTSD; in any case, living through the War of Five Kings clearly did a number on her. For one thing, she has to recite the names of everyone she wants to kill in order to fall asleep.
- Discussed at length by Septon Meribald in the fourth book (full version here).
- Sansa Stark gets a different version of PTSD thanks to being held as a political hostage in King's Landing. At the beginning of the war, she's a Spoiled Sweet thirteen-year-old already renowned for her beauty, raised by her loving parents Eddard/Ned and Catelyn Stark. Then her fiance Prince Joffrey executes Ned in front of her, which sparks the War of Five Kings as her brother Robb goes on a war campaign for revenge. She's nearly gang-raped after getting lost in a bread-riot, and as the war goes on, Joffrey orders his guards to hit her if she says something he doesn't agree with, publicly beat her for every victory Robb wins, and he gleefully talks about how once they're married, he can have sex with her whenever he wants. And then Robb and their mother are killed in a horrific breach of Sacred Hospitality called "The Red Wedding". Over the several books (and years in the show) that this happens, the now-adult Sansa constantly Forgets to Eat and spends her time either trolling people with courtesy, crying in her room, or walking around in the godswood. Most people think she's praying, but she tells Tyrion that it's the only place where people don't talk to her.
- Leia is this in Splinter of the Mind's 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.
- The first Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet: Dr. Watson, 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.
- 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....
- Three Day Road: Xavier/Elijah has come home to die, bringing a crippling morphine addiction with him.
- Gregor at the end of The Underland Chronicles. He's twelve. Ripred is an older version of this.
- In Veil of Darkness, Sicarius thinks that his jumping at shadows and growing paranoia about Necrons being everywhere are signs that he has PTSD. While he may have it, the Necrons really did invade the Temple of Hera and hide in the shadows.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's 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 Bujold's The Curse of Chalion.
- 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.
- Eren dom Hasstrell from The Witchlands is still recovering from his time as a Hell-Bard and spends his time drowing his sorrows and flashbacks in drink. Or so he wants everyone to believe.
- Basically everyone in World War Z.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Babylon 5:
- An earlier page quote was 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.
- And a lurker who once saw his entire squad wiped out by an nasty alien on an outer rim outpost.
Lurker: "They're coming through the walls!"Garibaldi: "I know where he's been. I've had the same nightmare."
- Babylon Berlin: Most of the male characters are World War One veterans, so the shellshock sufferers are plentiful - and their treatment by society is quite awful. The protagonist Gereon Rath, for example, seems constantly just a morphine shot away from going catatonic from his trauma, but is still forced to hide it from his police superiors.
- 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.
- Jimmy Darmody and Richard Harrow of Boardwalk Empire both served in World War I 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 violence 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).
- Detective Adrian Pimento in Brooklyn Nine-Nine spent twelve years working undercover for a vicious mobster, and as a result of the things he did is not quite... stable. In his first appearance he held a knife to Jake's throat and destroyed his keyboard yelling "Machine!" It's all Played for Laughs.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is this for awhile after she twice discovers that coming back from the dead is no picnic.
- 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.
- Colleen McMurphy on China Beach became an alcoholic because of her wartime experiences in Vietnam.
- Leonard on Community claims to have participated in several wars, and this trope may be an explanation for his current wild and coarse nature.
- 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.
- 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.
- Doctor Who
Tenth Doctor: I'm so old now. I used to have so much mercy.
- The Doctor himself 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.
- In "The Doctor's Daughter," he explicitly confirmed he fought alongside other Time Lords as a soldier.
- 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.
- Captain Jack falls into this mode now and then in the series and in 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.
- In series 8 of the new series, Clara's boyfriend Danny Pink was in Iraq and accidentally killed a child.
- Anthony/Victor from Dollhouse became a Doll after returning home from Afghanistan with severe PTSD.
- Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. When Dorothy's son comes to visit and is soon revealed to be a morphine addict. Later, when Dr. Mike's presumed dead fiance shows up, he explains that after being injured, he was held prisoner at Andersonville (a Confederate prison camp with conditions so dreadful that 1/3 of its inmates died and a visiting official became ill with influenza within one hour of his arrival). His staunch response to her horrified reaction—"I DON'T want to talk about that"—implies that his time there was particularly traumatic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mal Reynolds from Firefly, as a result of the Unification War in general and Serenity Valley in particular.
- A deleted scene from 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.
- A deleted scene from pilot episode Serenity makes it clear that this applies to both Mal and Zoe.
- Game of Thrones:
- Ned Stark, in stark contrast to Robert, who misses war and his glory days. Best shown in Lord Snow, where Ned watches Arya practicing fencing with Syrio Forel with a wooden sword, only to have his amused expression slowly turns grim as he's gradually reminded of the hell of war, apparently hearing the distant sound of swords clashing and men dying instead of the wooden sounds of his daughter's fencing.
- It's clear Jon Snow is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after being murdered and brought back to life in "Oathbreaker."
- It's clear the loss of life during the war and the Red Wedding left Robett Glover broken.
- Even if he wasn't this before, the Battle of the Blackwater (specifically the Blackwater being on fire) really screwed the Hound up.
- 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.
- 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 second series of Horatio Hornblower casts Captain Sawyer's paranoia and insanity as a result of this. At one point he mistakes Archie for an admiral he knew, only to correct himself because the man was decapitated in front of him during a battle. Later, he drowns out the noise of a prisoner uprising by plugging his ears and reading aloud his report of the battle where he defeated three French frigates with one ship. Though the battle began his reputation for extraordinary courage, the report itself recounts a bloody and brutal affair. Essentially being forced to fight heroically for his whole career made him see enemies everywhere and turned him into a Death Seeker.
- The Hour: Both Hector Madden and Laurie Stern are this. It manifests in very different ways.
- From It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 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!
Frank: And a lot of good men died in that sweatshop!
- 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.
- 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.
- Las Vegas. Danny McCoy when he returns from his second tour of duty with the Marines in season 2. He recovers later on.
- Averted with Commissaire Larosière in Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie; he fought in World War One but is well adjusted to civilian life. It takes the death of his former commanding officer to trigger memories of how hellish the trenches were.
- In Life on Mars, Reg Cole is a subversion — he didn't actually get to go to war, and that's a plot point.
- 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.
- In the Marple adaptation of The Moving Finger, Jerry Burton is depicted as a Broken Ace war hero who, to paraphrase his sister, came through the war with flying colours yet seems to find the peace utterly defeating.
- Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H. The goofy fun-lover of the first season descends through the years into an embittered shell of a man. By the series finale, he's committed to a sanitarium, suppressing traumatic memories and rambling at length whenever something triggers him.
- 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.
- NCIS: Several episodes have featured veterans from a variety of wars suffering guilt or hallucinations due to the trauma and resulting stress.
- A few episodes show Gibbs having flashbacks to his Roaring Rampage of Revenge in his revenge murder of the drug lord who murdered his first wife and daughter.
- 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.
- Confederate vet Johnny Yuma on The Rebel.
- 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])
- 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.
- 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 sixteen of my own men to the latrines 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.
Frank: They were just boys!
Kramer: Frank, you were a boy too. And it was war! It was a crazy time for everyone.
Frank: Tell that to Bobby Colby. All that kid wanted to do was go home! Well, he went home, all right! ...With a crater in his colon the size of a cutlet!
Frank: Had to sit him on a cork the eighteen-hour flight home!
- 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.
- Rick Simon on Simon & Simon experienced PTSD in the "I Thought The War Was Over" episode.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation has Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself suffer this trope due to the events of "The Best of Both Worlds", where he is assimilated into the Borg and obliterates an entire fleet of Starfleet ships. He is certainly not over it by the events of Star Trek: First Contact where he turns much more brutal with the machines. This event connects Picard to the next Trek protagonist...
- Star Trek: 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.
- 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.note
- Kira's entire character arc is about recovering from this. She starts out as obstructive and mistrustful of Starfleet, but gradually realizes how the emotional baggage she picked up as a freedom fighter can compromise her job and put Bajor at risk.
- 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.
- In the seventh season episode "Field of Fire" shows what happens when this is mixed with a Vulcan. One of only a handful of survivors of a crew after a traumatic battle, he repressed his emotions so much he snapped and became a cold sniper targeting anyone who was happy. Why? In his own words, "Logic demanded it".
- Season 3 of Star Trek: Enterprise turns Archer into this. This is particularly evident during the after-action debriefing, when Soval's criticisms drive Archer to a very pissed-off "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how the Vulcans wouldn't help him save Earth.
- 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.
- Iraq war vet Terry Bellefleur on True Blood.
- Edgar from You're the Worst is an Iraq War veteran with PTSD. While his status as a veteran isn't the central defining aspect of his character, the show (which is largely a comedy) does not gloss over his problems and Edgar's A Day in the Limelight episode "Twenty-Two" takes an especially harshly critical look at how the system ignores veterans and is ill-equipped to help with their mental health problems and getting them back into normal society.
- All the men in Peaky Blinders were in WWI, and none of them came home the same. The worst effected is Danny Whizz-Band, but Arthur is a close second, with Tommy coming in third.
- Grace was a British undercover agent in Ireland and participated in the dirty war being fought between the Irish revolutionaries and the British secret service.
- Fortunes of War by Iron Maiden describes in detail the emotional and psychological agony of a veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress, leaving out the myths propagated by pop culture about the condition.
- 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 Öyster Cult's "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" appears to be a sufferer, though the lyrics leave ambiguous whether the war is real or not.
Wounds are all I'm made of. Dare you say that this is victory?
- 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.
- Also "The Door"
- "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." It's based on the true story of Ira Hayes, one of the Marines on the iconic photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. After the war, he turns to alcohol to dull the pain, and eventually drinks himself to death.
- "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.
- "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.
- "Talking Old Soldiers" from Tumbleweed Connection appears to be from the perspective of one drowning his sorrows and bitterly relating to another war veteran of the horror of "hav(ing) a graveyard as a friend."
- 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..."
- Cormorant provides this with "Ronin", an incomplete and unreleased song from their demo.
- Warren Zevon's song Play it All Night Long, (written in response to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama.)
Brother Billy has both guns drawn, he ain't been right since Vietnam
- Paul Hardcastle's "19" features samples from the 1983 documentary Vietnam Requiem.
- 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.
- 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).
- Standard Guardsmen, in this large, terrible universe, are unsurprisingly liable to get this... should they survive at all.
- The Iron Warriors reached this point significantly before the Heresy, but kept being sent into combat anyway - their Index Astartes article mentions that combat fatigue and the relentless, grinding nature of siege warfare had brutalised them until bloodshed was the only real release they had left, leading to a murderous rampage across their rebellious homeworld, which in turn led to them joining Horus.
- The sanity rules in Call of Cthulhu include some symptoms that leave the characters Shell-Shocked Veterans. Not all triggers for SAN checks are even necessarily supernatural.
- Surviving the World of Darkness is no easy picnic, but the Chronicles of Darkness book Dogs Of War explicitly delves into this territory (as its objective of expanding Player Character options for military-based campaigns) with optional rules to change the game's morality meter (which would turn a player character into a horrifying Sociopathic Soldier if left as is) into a sanity meter that makes the characters become more distraught with PTSD as they lose points.
- 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 B.S.O.D. 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.Otacon: Why?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.
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.
- Also in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the player is tasked with sneaking into Colonel Fuhberger's house to steal his stock of Cold War era weapons. Anytime the player makes a noise that slightly stirred the old soldier from his sleep, he can be hear yelling things like "GET OFF MY RIDGE, YOU COMMIE BASTARDS!" In his dreams, he is back in the war.
- 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.
- 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?Marcus: Yeah.Carmine: Hey, cool!Marcus: Not really.
- Marcus Fenix.
(after encountering some grub holes)Carmine: I used to have nightmares about those things when I was a kid.Dom: Shit, I still do...
- Dom, too.
- 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.
Kreia: Do you speak of all your battles? Or are there some you wish to forget?
- 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.
- 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.
- Mass Effect:
- Depending on dialogue choices, Commander Shepard from the 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. Joker once 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. Fortunately, though, after two games of playing Warrior Therapist to his/her party members, Shepard's friends return the favor this round. The next line after the page quote is:
Garrus: ... Before your friend picks you up, dusts you off, and tells you you're the best soldier he's ever known.
- 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).
- 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.
- Depending on dialogue choices, Commander Shepard from the 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. Joker once 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. Fortunately, though, after two games of playing Warrior Therapist to his/her party members, Shepard's friends return the favor this round. The next line after the page quote is:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When your Roman party ambushes a few goblins resting by a campfire in Nethergate, they are surprised that the greenskins act like war-weary veterans instead of behaving like savage beasts they are supposed to be.
- In League of Legends Teemo's "Omega Squad" skin plays this trope straight, as a darker and edgier version of Teemo after so many fights.
- Non-combat variant: In The Lost Crown, the Station Master's account of the Apple Train derailment suggests his father became this after witnessing that terrible calamity. The fact that his father was the one who'd tried to shift the stuck tracks and to warn the train off with a lantern, but failed in both attempts, more than justified such a diagnosis.
- Halo: It's taken a very long time to surface thanks to both Chief's mental training and his sheer force of will, but by the time of Halo 5: Guardians, some cracks are beginning to break through. The Chief has been pushing himself non-stop instead of taking some time off, and in Blue Team's intro cutscene, he can't stop his hands from shaking as he pilots his Pelican. Both are telling signs of PTSD. Considering that he's experienced the loss of nearly all his fellow Spartan-IIs and Cortana, his going AWOL to follow a dream of Cortana is a relatively mild response.
- Slim of Evolve is one of these, with good reason. The events of The Third Mutagen War killed all his friends, turned him into a Half-Human Hybrid, placed his homeworld under strict rule, put a massive bounty on his head, and apparently involved 'hurtling naked through deep space'. By the events of the game, he's hiding in the wilderness ofShear and suffers severe PTSD, repressing all memories before and of the war, including his own name.
- In Firewatch, it turns out that Ned was this. He served in the war and was discharged due to personal issues.
- At the very end of the classic Traffic Department 2192, player character Velasques has become one of these. Particularly stands out since she starts the game as a full-on Hot-Blooded Cowboy Cop on a non-stop Roaring Rampage of Revenge - seemingly determined to singlehandedly wipe out every last soldier of the Vulture Cult Army for killing her father in front of her when she was 11. But after several campaigns, seeing countless fellow officers and friends die during the course of her crusade, narrowly avoiding death numerous times (including being blown up and patched back together again as a cyborg at one point) and more or less directly causing the destruction of her homeworld - all for her vengeance... she's just so, so tired.
- Bastion from Overwatch is a robot, and the Last of His Kind from the Omnic War many years ago. His origin story, "The Last Bastion", reveals that he reverts to his original Killer Robot programming after hearing or seeing anything that reminds him of the Omnic Crisis. He reverts to his sentry mode and starts shooting everything in sight after mistaking a woodpecker for machine-gun fire, and downloading the memory of one of his fallen Bastion units shows him a vision of the war, with a Crusader clearing away many of his kind. After the vision, he reverts back to his programming, intent on hunting down humans, but his new bird friend Ganymede snaps him out of it.
- The Bloody Baron from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the most Warts and All portrayals of this trope in gaming, as the horrors of what he'd seen on the battlefield drove him to become The Alcoholic. This, in turn, causes him to become distant from his wife, which causes her to cheat on him, causing him to kill her lover in a jealous rage before hitting her (as she was trying to kill him for this), and thus starts roughly 20 years of an absolutely wretched relationship for everyone involved.
- Fate/stay night:
- Archer is not only one of these, but his magic is fueled by this. His Reality Marble, a representation of "the world he holds in his mind", is a featureless barren landscape riddled with discarded and heavily-used weapons, extending on forever, as giant metal gears endlessly turn in the sky.
- Shirou (Archer's past self) still has flashbacks to the Great Fuyuki Fire, of which he is the sole known survivor. He has a pretty good lid on it most of the time, but anything that reminds him of that disaster can cause him to freak out.
- Code:Realize depicts Abraham Van Helsing as a former soldier who was comprehensively broken into a "human weapon" by his experiences during the Vampire War. Most of the British public considers him a hero, but Van Helsing is clearly haunted by what he's done to the point of not caring if he dies.
- Atlas Molniya of Starship Promise was once a fighter pilot for the Union of Democratic Star Systems, and whatever prompted his break with the Union was traumatic enough to leave him with lasting emotional scars and a lot of bitterness toward the military he used to serve in. In his first season, he experiences a full-fledged flashback during a space dogfight, with only the player character in any position to try to talk him down before they're both killed.
- 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.
- 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:
- There are 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.
- On Chorus, we meet partner mercenaries Felix and Locus who are confirmed shell-shocked before their true colors are even revealed. They both have their own way of coping. Locus prefers to try and make himself believe he's a "true soldier", a walking suit of armor with a gun with no feelings beyond accomplishing his mission. Washington correctly deduces this is to avoid the realization that he's simply become a monster. Meanwhile, Felix is a Psychopathic Man Child who, despite his blustering, knows full well he can't function without Locus. So, he does everything he can to make sure Locus's psychological wounds never heal, ensuring he never abandons him. When Locus DOES abandon him, that's when Felix lets his broken state show completely.
- The PTSD episode of The Damn Few discusses and attacks this trope, or at least exaggerations of this trope as applied to Real Life.
- RWBY Given the events that happen near the end of Volume 3, it will ultimately surprise nobody to learn that quite a few of the central characters suffer from this in various forms in Volume 4. It might be a surprise to discover that one of the characters to suffer the most is the third volume's main villain, however.
- Sekhmet from The Green Eyed Sniper is an AWOL soldier and a war criminal with obvious PTSD. Although it's unclear what exactly she's seen and done during war (except for building a weapon of mass destruction which she repeatedly sabotages), she has a pained and rather strong restraining reaction in the presence of wounded people.
- 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 Survivor's Guilt
- In Sinfest, Fuchsia's Flashbacks are explicitly termed Post-Traumatic Stress — though she is not technically a soldier, having only worked for Satan.
- Anna Galactic: Dilvan Ceylon has been a veteran of a war and he has troubles trying to cope with it.
- Homestuck: Dave Strider shows signs of this, mostly from his upbringing with Bro, who regularly beat the shit out of him.
- Questionable Content: Bubbles the ex combat unit was an AI version of this, to the point she let Corpse Witch "encrypt" (actually erase) a chunk of horrific memories.
- Half-Man: Major Koda, has been experimented on/tortured by aliens for years, retrieved and then experimented on by humans when they got him back, and then frequently flung in battle after. His stability is...questionable.As he commanding officer puts it "I'm sure that if I'd been though a quarter of what he's been though, I'd be stuck in a hospital somewhere, screaming my lungs out night and day"
- 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.
- 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."
- PTSD Clarinet Boy is this trope Played for Laughs.
- 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.
- Played for Laughs in the Twitter Character Blog for Jurassic Park's Tim Murphy. More than twenty years later, that weekend where dinosaurs nearly killed him is still a haunting memory.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Iroh 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- In the first part where Hank, Peggy, and Bobby accompany Cotton to a peace ceremony in Japan, Cotton has to be restrained and stuffed into an overhead compartment of the plane after he hallucinates the 50 men he killed coming back for him.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
- Parodied in Team Homer, where it looks like he's going into angry flashback mode, except...
- 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 B.S.O.D. when she meets her again.
- 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.
- 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.
- Samurai Jack has become one of these in Season 5. Jack, a One-Man Army Action Hero, was constantly fighting against Aku and his troops for 50 years straight, both for his own survival and to save as many innocent people as he can. However, the toll of seeing how many innocents he failed to save, combined with not being able to succeed at his original goal (of escaping this wretched world), has caused Jack to fall into a deep state of insanity; he's now an extremely anxious, depressed, and paranoid shell of his former self, who suffers from nightmarish visions borne from his guilt and self-loathing. He even regularly argues with his own subconscious, as he's constantly considering whether or not to commit "honorable" suicide just to put an end to his misery.
- Sadly every war in the history of mankind will at least have one of these.
- This trope is Older Than Feudalism as archeologists have found clay tablets dating from the Assyrian Empire recording that soldiers coming back from war suffered from nightmares consisting of people they killed in battle coming back to haunt them.
- 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.
- The term 'shell shock' originates in part from the trenches of the First World War. (Artillery) 'Destruction' doctrine was pioneered by the French in 1916 and entailed that "the artillery destroys, the infantry occupies." Accordingly the French and their allies/subordinates (the French retained military and political command throughout the war) attempted to utterly destroy the entirety of the enemy's tactical defenses in zones up to twenty kilometres wide and five kilometres deep through bombardments as long as a week in which a million rounds — and in one case, the Commonwealth's Paschendaele campaign of 1917, four million — were fired by at least five hundred and as many as two thousand artillery pieces firing at a rate of at least one every few seconds. If you were one of the up to fifty thousand soldiers on the receiving end of an Entente bombardment you might have to go thirsty and possibly hungry and live in filthy conditions for a week knowing that you could die at any moment note . Germany and Austria-Hungary used Artillery 'Suppression' doctrine (the artillery suppresses, to help the infantry assault) instead, so their bombardments would only ever last for five hours at the very most, but all bombardments were highly stressful experiences: when the bombardment stopped, and you had no idea when that'd be, you would have to fight for your life against the attacking enemy infantry.
- These pre-offensive bombardments gave a name to a condition which had already become apparent among the troops when (after the 'Christmas Truce' of 1914) 'Trench Raids', constant sniping, and sporadic artillery 'harassment' bombardments became commonplace. While a soldier at a typical section of front might only be at the front lines for eight hours a day (including lunch/dinner), six days a week, this was still more than enough that many soldiers simply snapped from the pressure and suffered mental and emotional breakdowns. Fortunately for most of them, their immediate superiors shared their burdens and tried to be as understanding as they could and looked the other way. Unfortunately, several hundred of the millions who served ultimately were shot for 'cowardice' that we today would recognise as stemming from acute mental distress. Unsurprisingly the British and Russians, who had the most recent experience with warfare, treated the problem with the most sympathy and the French and Germans, who had the least and strong traditions of martial pride to boot (more so in the French case), the least. German non-recognition of the existence of 'Shell Shock' would ultimately continue until after of World War Two.
- 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.
- What made the problem worse was that, after being wounded, a French soldier's ordeal had only just begun. French military medicine, never robust, often collapsed under the strain of World War I, with many soldiers placed in hideously unsanitary conditions and forced to endure the functional equivalent of Roadside Surgery in the unlikely event they survived to reach the rear. The sheer trauma and horror French wounded experienced contributed mightily to the 1917 mutinies and the lasting mistrust against the French government afterwards.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Ishiro Honda, the creator of the Godzilla series, became this after World War II. He was originally a optimistic man with a positive outlook on life. Alas, World War II happened, and he became a foot soldier. When he saw Hiroshima after it was hit by the Little Boy atom bomb, his life changed forever. Since then, Godzilla (1954) was based on his PTSD of Hiroshima, and plenty of his films will end in a Bittersweet Ending.
- 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.
- The Duke of Wellington was badly affected by the losses his army took; he always read the casualty list for every battle personally. After the Battle of Waterloo, he reportedly broke into tears.
- 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 participating in the infamous death flights-where hundreds of heavily drugged and barely conscious people were put into Cement Shoes and thrown into the ocean from planes to drown-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.
- Apparently not uncommon among Argentine military personnel compelled to participate in the activities of the security services, presumably to ensure their loyalty to the regime by making them accomplices. Several ended up in long-term psychiatric care.
- 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.)
- "No such thing as an ex-soldier" Even if someone has not been through any particularly traumatic experience, and is perfectly capable of functioning in society, just being trained as a soldier leaves a mark, to the point that one might recognize the other just by the way he walks or looks around.
- Tragically, post-traumatic stress disorder can develop, not only in war, concentration camps and prisons, but also in elementary schools. Severe bullying and violence can cause children so dire emotional and psychological stress that they develop fully-fledged PTSD already in their early teens. The emotional scars of Holocaust survivors and those who have experiences serious bullying in the school are remarkably similar.
- It's unfortunately common in a Wretched Hive (or the Wrong Side of the Tracks in part of a city), especially with lots of gang violence and a lax police force—children and teenagers are frequently scarred from the deaths of their friends and family members, and are sometimes forced to participate in criminal activities themselves through self-defense or lack of money. It's noted that in some ways, PTSD from living somewhere is even worse than combat—soldiers at least have the option to go home, but people who are ALREADY home have nowhere to go.