Follow TV Tropes


Shell-Shocked Veteran

Go To
Invisible Injury: Beyond PTSD by Jeff Severns Guntzel and Andy Warner.
"There's only so much fight in a person. Only so much death you can take before..."
Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 3

War Is Glorious? Not to this one.

"Shell shock" is a nickname for what was eventually termed post-traumatic stress disorder, a real conditionnote  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 has done things that no amount of (fictional) therapy will heal, and it has left them so irrevocably scarred that they have trouble feeling, emoting, or caring about the people around them and even themself. If they continue to feel anything, it's usually restricted to Survivor Guilt. Thus they're usually the first to do what must be done and Shoot the Dog. Most Shell-Shocked Veterans will, at some point or another, have a flashback or be seen exhibiting the classic Thousand-Yard Stare; with a blank, emotionless expression and unfocused, empty eyes. The war clearly never ended according to them.

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 they insist 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 them 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 their Back Story, though the Shell-Shocked Veteran is likelier to eventually prove they're a Jerk with a Heart of Gold or a Knight in Sour Armor. Expect them 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, while others step into the role of the Mentor in Sour Armor to impress on the young cadets that war is not glorious.

Sub-Trope of The Stoic. Super-Trope to The Vietnam Vet.

Compare with Heroic BSoD, Murder Makes You Crazy and Rape Leads to Insanity. Contrast Blood Knight (who is of the opposite mindset).

As war is an incredibly common fact of life throughout history, real life examples are too numerous to count. No Real Life Examples, Please!

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Action Man: Battlefield Casualties, a PSA presented as a Black Comedy parody of Action Man commercials, has PTSD Action Man. "Danger lurks behind every turn!" (mistakes his reflection for an intruder and punches the mirror), and drinks heavily and does cocaine to drown out the pain. "PTSD Action Man now comes with Thousand-Yard Stare action!"
  • In one of his stand-up routines, Bill Bailey discusses a conversation he had with someone about the traditional "things to do before you die" life-ambition of swimming with dolphins; apparently, the dolphins this person had swam with had previously been used for military service and consequently had "a glazed, far-away look in their eyes."
    Bill: [as the dolphin] You weren't there, man. You weren't there.
  • George Carlin during a routine criticizing euphemisms over more direct language, gave the use of alternative words to Shell-Shock as a primary example of such behavior.
    • In the first World War it was simply "Shell-Shock", simple and direct. "Almost sounds like the guns themselves."
    • The second World War comes along and the same condition is now "Battle Fatigue" which sounds much less terrible.
    • Then during the Korean War became the more impersonal "Operational Exhaustion" which Carlin said sounded like something a car might suffer.
    • Finally during the Vietnam war the term "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" was coined and in his opinion diluting the humanity of the condition entirely.
      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.
  • Parodied in the Larry the Cable Guy Christmas special "Christmastime in Larry-land" which features a brief music performance by an obvious rip-off of the Chipmunks. Their leader claims that they would have been famous first had they not been drafted to fight in the war...but he's hesitant to say which war it was before claiming that they're too messed-up to remember.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Achille Talon: Played for Laughs in one issue, where Achille 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.
  • Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters: Jackie acts this way when pretending to be a Red Baron, a Shout-Out to Charlie Brown.
  • Adventures In The Rifle Brigade: It is eventually shown 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!"
  • Asterix:
    • Vitalstatistix is the chief of the last free Gaulish village, kept safe by Getafix' magic potion... But he's also a survivor of Alesia, where Caesar's tactical and strategic masterpiece broke the great Gaulish revolt. While he got away with his life and Vergingetorix' shield, the experience broke him to the point he can't conceive chasing the Romans out of Gaul even with the magic potion, and is implied to have fattened up due to stress eating.
    • The two Belgian chiefs in Asterix in Belgium and their tribe are initially proud of their courage and capable of picking a fight with the Romans... But the news of Caesar coming immediately breaks them, as they all remember that when the Eburones angered Caesar he killed the entire tribe and realize that now it's their turn.
  • Batman: 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Captain Ameroca: Bucky Barnes, especially under his Winter Soldier identity. Steve Rogers to some extent has shown shades of this in recent years.
  • Copperhead: Ishmael 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.
  • Duster (2015): Sheriff has a flashback to his days in the war when he discovers the tunnel he and Jo tried to escape the Nazis in caved in.
  • The Flintstones: The men of Bedrock 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.
  • Iron Fist: In Iron Fist (1975), Warhawk, who fought in the Vietnam War and come out the other end completely insane, going on a spree shooting in the States and abducting Colleen Wing under the belief she's his Vietnamese wife. Being turned into a cybernetically enhanced super-soldier didn't help in this regard. After plunging into a river, he returned a short time later over in X-Men, his trauma fixed by Emma Frost, albeit at the cost of making him a minion. And as it turns out, even without the trauma-induced insanity, Warhawk's not a terribly nice person anyway.
  • Jessica Jones: Jessica still has lingering trauma as a result of her time as a slave of the Purple Man, whose effect on her with his ability was essentially Mind Rape.
  • Saga: Prince Robot IV, who fought at the battle on Threshold None and was seriously wounded in the fighting which also claimed the lives of many comrades. Even long after the battle, his personality has been seriously destabilized. He also suffers flashbacks and night terrors of the battle as well as an orgy he participated in during his time there.
  • Sin City: Marv 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.
  • Star Wars: Purge: Roblio Darte shows hints of this, stating that the Jedi strayed from their path when they became generals and solemnly describing an ugly battle in his earlier appearance in Star Wars: Republic.
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers (Marvel):
      • The UK series' introduction of Kup details that troops suffer from "combat fatigue", where they're simply unable to fight anymore. Since There Are No Therapists, command gives them a spaceship and lets them wander off into space for their final years. And Kup is no exception, though an encounter with Hot Rod gives him a He's Back! moment.
      • Dogfight's A Day in the Limelight issue suggests he's got some of this going on.
        Dogfight: We live and breath warfare day in, day out. For some of us, it's the only life we've ever known! We know exactly how to fight - we just don't like doing it.
    • The Transformers (IDW) winds up with a lot of such characters due to being a darker look at the effects of a species going through a Forever War. Characters range from the psychotic war criminal Sandstorm who turns into a serial killer to the hilariously dysfunctional Scavengers who'd just like it if they could be left alone (except for one, who thinks maybe it'd be a good idea to start up a support group, which the others mock him for).
    • Transformers (2019) turns Cyclonus into this. He's a veteran of the last war who lives in seclusion and is haunted by images of his dead comrades, who chide him over his failings and sometimes urge him to get therapy.
  • TRON: 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.
  • Unknown Soldier: 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.
  • Wesley Dodds: The Sandman: Edward Dodds came back from World War I with a bad case of what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a consequence of seeing his fellow soldiers die gruesome deaths from exposure to mustard gas. Edward vented his fears onto his young son Wesley, who tried to conquer his own fear of gases by studying them to find a gas that could incapacitate people without harming or killing them. This led to him trying out the gas on criminals, which in turn led to him becoming the Golden Age Sandman.
  • X-Men: 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 became so ruthless in defending what little he has left. And let's not even get started on what happened after he killed his surrogate father while under the control of the Phoenix Force.

  • A German one: A man sits in the tram, almost obsessively rubbing the tip of his index finger against the tip of his thumb. A stranger approaches him and asks, "Sorry Sir, do you have that from the war?" The man replies, "Nah, my nose."

  • 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:
    • "Replica" is about a former soldier feeling like a hollow shell of himself because of severe PTSD.
    • "What Did You Do in the War, Dad?" describes a child asking his father what he did in the war, triggering him to remember all the horrors he'd seen, and praying that the child never has to see such things.
  • '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.
    "Every summer, when it rains
    I smell the jungle; I hear the planes
    Can't tell no-one; I feel ashamed
    Afraid someday I'll go insane"
  • Dream Theater have touched on the subject of PTSD in soldiers a few times.
    • "War Inside My Head", part of the second disc of "6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence", is about a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who has hallucinations of the war.
    • "The Enemy Inside" from their Self-Titled Album is about a veteran, probably of the Iraq war, suffering from PTSD finding himself unable to reintegrate into society. It comes with a music video showing exactly how crippling this can be, with actual Iraq veterans providing some commentary.
  • 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 M*A*S*H 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 tells the story of a working-class Vietnam War veteran grappling with both the lingering scars from fighting in Southeast Asia and the hostility he faces after returning home, which results in him becoming isolated from everything he knew.
  • 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.
  • Def Leppard's Die Hard The Hunter. It's got nothing to do with the movie, it's about veterans of the Falklands War returning to Britain and having trouble in civilian life because their instincts are still geared for combat.
  • Green Day's 21 Guns, which was written in the context of the Iraq War, is sung to a Shell-Shocked Veteran, with the lyrics alluding to the mental state of a guilt-ridden soldier after experiencing war.
  • Metallica’s “Confusion” is sung from the perspective of a war veteran with PTSD. The music video portrays a former soldier who served in The War on Terror being triggered by mundane things at work, having the office around her blur into the combat zone that she never truly left behind.
  • Nautilus Pompilius: In the song "My Brother Cain", Cain came back from Soviet–Afghan war with PTSD.
  • Sabaton's "To Hell and Back" recounts the story of World War II veteran Audie Murphy, who earned every award for valor issued by the United States at the time, but struggled with PTSD and drug addiction from inept attempts at treatment for years afterwards.
    Oh gather round me
    And listen while I speak
    Of a war
    Where Hell is six feet deep

    And all along the shore
    Where cannons still roar
    They’re haunting my dreams
    They’re still there when I sleep!

  • In "The Silent Avenger", The Shadow is up against one of his deadliest opponents: a shell-shocked WWI sniper whose condemned gangster brother has set him loose on the judge, jury, and governor.

  • This was the fate of several different characters in Dino Attack RPG. Kate Bishop and Sam Race were both in need of massive therapy to get over their trauma (the former of whom even developed a drug addiction). Sarah Bishop on the other hand is haunted by guilt over the people she killed. Then of course Rotor and Cabin's relationship quickly goes downhill because neither can really adjust to society after the war.
  • 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."

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
      • Not as sympathetic as it sounds. The Imperial Fists had the same specialties (making and breaking fortifications) as the Iron Warriors. However, the Imperial Fists chose to do as their name implies and powerfully smash through a point in said fortifications and annihilate the enemy. The Iron Warriors chose the hard and bloody trench and siege warfare instead of a similar swift and effective method as used by the Imperial Fists. They have no one but themselves (for not standing up for themselves) and their Primarch to blame. Same for the garrison duty they were merely asked to perform because they were good at it and they agreed to it then complained as though they didn't have any choice. They were damn good at it, too.
    • Eldar aspect warriors practice some sort of battle trance seemingly to avoid this (and also for efficiency, of course). At one point some of them fail to properly exit from this Unstoppable Rage state and become Exarchs who stick to the warrior path for the rest of their lives.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Chris in Miss Saigon. John too, though he's not as badly off.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • The PTSD episode of The Damn Few discusses and attacks this trope, or at least exaggerations of this trope as applied to Real Life.
  • Flippy from Happy Tree Friends is a vicious parody of this trope. Rather than breaking down when he sees or hears a trigger, he ends up going through a Split Personality change and 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.
  • Helluva Boss: Heavily hinted, and a rare fiction example happening in the organized crime rather than in a military setting. In Season 1: Moxxie dreaming about the murder of his parents in the pilot, struggling to breath for no apparent reason after preventing Blitzo to kill Martha in front of her children in Episode 1, and being unnerved by the Loo Loo Land park and downright panicking for no reason in front of the mascot in Episode 2? If you only saw the Season 1, respectively a funny dark humor joke, a minor detail, and another dark joke. Then Season 2 Episode 3 reveals that Moxxie's father is a mafia boss, who hides a part of his activities including torture and murder into an abandoned Loo Loo Land park, who was abusive toward Moxxie. He also killed Moxxie's mother, brought Moxxie to the lake where he disposed of the body, and forced Moxxie to participate to an assassination on the very same spot. And it get even worst, as the victim - who has their face masked - Moxxie is forced to kill could possibly actually be his mother. So, in the Pilot, Episodes 1 and 2, Moxxie was very likely experiencing PTSD manifestations.
  • Knights of the Old Republic Cinematic Universe: In the alternate backstory of Yuthura Ban, her Jedi father joined the Mandalorian Wars under Revan's banner, but he was so traumatized by what he had seen and done that instead of following Revan and Malak into the Unknown Regions, he returned to Yuthura and his mother to, in Yuthura's words, hide from the horrors that haunted his dreams. He trashed objects as he woke from his nightmares until he ended up Force choking Yuthura's mother and turning on Yuthura as well when she tried to stop him. As her mother died, Yuthura used her Force potency to kill her father and left to join the Sith.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • There are hints that the main AI/Fragments 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.
    • Also on Chorus, we have Dr. Emily Gray. She's been a doctor in a Forever War since she was young, and it's done a number on her. Word of God is that one early plan for Season 13 would have Epsilon find her journal, which would show that she was once mentally stable, but as the entries went on she would slowly break and start retreating to her happy place until there was no going back, which is how she became like she is now.
    • On a less serious note, Sarge is strongly implied to be one. His experience as an Orbital Shock Drop Trooper has given him a bad fear of heights, and he admits in a PSA (of questionable canon) that he's been in the military for so long that he can't function without a war to fight.
  • RWBY:
    • This is discussed in Volume 3. When Emerald Sustrai targets people on the battlefield with her illusions, they can exhibit symptoms that get diagnosed as "battlefield stress", which can affect both soldiers and Huntsmen. When it happens to Yang Xiao Long, James Ironwood tells Team RWBY how stress and adrenaline can make people see things that aren't there. Although he's trying to be understanding, it's strongly hinted by the way he touches his cybernetic arm that he's talking more about himself than Yang, and that he suffers from PTSD. Ruby Rose later starts cluing into what Emerald's doing when she learns that Coco suffered "hallucinations" during her tournament match with Emerald and Mercury, which were dismissed with the same explanation.
    • Yang spends Volume 4 traumatized by the events of the Battle of Beacon; simply dropping a glass on the floor triggers flashbacks to the injuries she sustained. Once she gets back on her feet from losing an arm to Adam Taurus, some of her trauma lingers, causing her tremors when she fights. Two volumes later, she hallucinates Adam while searching Brunswick Farms and panics, visibly shaking afterwards. When Adam sees her tremors and tries to trigger her PTSD during their final fight, she is able to work past it and disarm him by out-thinking him rather than by overpowering him.
    • In the second and third volumes, it's heavily implied that Ironwood has PTSD from an incident that cost him most of the right side of his body. In Volume 4, his scruffy stubble and arguments with Jacques Schnee suggest he's haunted by the Battle of Beacon, and it's driving his more extreme decisions, such as enforcing a global Dust embargo and locking down Atlas' borders. One volume later, Leonardo Lionheart is disturbed by Ironwood's behaviour since Beacon, and by Volume 7, he's struggling with paranoia and flashbacks. He spirals through increasingly draconian decisions to control the kingdom and its security until Cinder Fall fully triggers his PTSD with a black queen chess piece, Salem's calling card. Once he turns his back on Oscar Pine, who was encouraging him to embrace his fear, he fully transforms into a villain and becomes as much a threat to the kingdom as Salem herself.
    • Thousands of years spent fighting Salem have taken their toll on Ozpin, but aside a cryptic comment in Volume 2 about hoping the kids he's training will never fight a war, he hides it so well that the Awful Truth comes as an unpleasant shock to his allies in Volume 6; he doesn't reconcile with them until two volumes later. His reincarnation into Oscar leaves him at his most psychologically fragile for years. He's been betrayed so many times that he now refuses to share more than he has to. Jinn replays the most tragic parts of his life for all to see, leaving Ozpin traumatised; he numbly accepts their condemnation until he can no longer cope, retreating deep inside Oscar's mind, inaccessible to even Oscar. He has so much self-loathing that he blames himself for Beacon's fall, accepts Qrow's belief that he's the worst luck of Qrow's life, and agrees with Hazel that he deserves to be tortured. His reconciliation consists of the heroes' realisation that managing his secret is harder than they thought, and him realising he's forgotten that trusting people is a risk worth taking; it doesn't address his trauma-induced Guilt Complex.
  • 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.

  • Anna Galactic: Dilvan Ceylon has been a veteran of a war and he has troubles trying to cope with it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Homestuck: Dave Strider shows signs of this, mostly from his upbringing with Bro, who regularly beat the shit out of him.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: According to Word Of God, and at least one of his former companions In-Universe, the Demiurge Jagganoth suffers from PTSD. Supplemental materials reveal he was a Child Soldier in something called the "Corpse Legions" during the Universal War before he became a Demiurge.
  • Aiden from La Macchina Bellica has a pretty bad (and well researched) case of this combined with Survivor's Guilt
  • Spoofed in Penny Arcade with Frank, a Vietnam vet turned EB Games store manager.
  • Pixie and Brutus' eponymous Brutus was a bomb-sniffing dog deployed to the Middle East, and, much like human veterans, can suffer flashbacks from loud noises like thunder.
  • 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.
  • In Sinfest, Fuchsia's Flashbacks are explicitly termed Post-Traumatic Stress — though she is not technically a soldier, having only worked for Satan.
  • In the The Legend of Zelda Deconstruction Fic A Tale of Two Rulers, it's shown that the reason for Link's Heroic Mime behavior throughout the saga is due to being traumatized by his Past-Life Memories of the Forever War against Ganon, which is part of the reason why Zelda tries her best to keep his current incarnation Locked Out of the Loop.
  • Unsounded: Lemuel has been a soldier since he was twelve, and spending his teenage years putting down and then culling the survivors of a rebellion was not good for him. He jumps at loud bangs and stares into the distance when he can on campaign.

    Web Original 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Pony told Jason about a happy man who upon returning from military service spent hours staring into nothing after seeing too many evil things. Jason reasons that Jamie's occasional absent-minded staring is the same situation.
  • PTSD Clarinet Boy is this trope Played for Laughs.
  • One of the key points of departure in the Alternate History Reds!: A Revolutionary Timeline 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • The Cry of Mann: Jouglat has a very hard time adjusting to being away from the war, suffering from flashbacks and finding his house uncomfortably quiet.
  • 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.
  • On the Dream SMP, by Season 3, multiple people on the SMP have experienced trauma to the point of developing PTSD, many of which originated from the wars that have occurred on the server.
    • Wilbur's mental health was on the decline even back during the L'Manburg War for Independence, which had left him traumatized. Wilbur, a man who is very much not a fighter, found himself in the role of a general and experienced the infamous betrayal in the Final Control Room from one of his comrades, Eret, the deaths of himself and his friends, and only won thanks to Tommy giving up his discs to trade for independence. He hid how badly it affected him in front of others during his presidency. His mask slowly chipped away during the Election Arc, momentarily dropping it in front of Quackity during their heart-to-heart several days before Election Day, and permanently dropped it a few days into exile as he spiralled to the point of suicidality.
    • Tommy's experience from the betrayal in the Final Control Room left him heavily traumatized as well, as when he and Techno stumbled across the room during an undercover trip to L'Manburg, it caused him to have a full-on panic attack, hyperventilating and scrambling for an exit. His time spent in exile (both in Pogtopia and Logstedshire) and his death and revival in Pandora's Vault did him no favours either.
    • Heavily implied with Fundy, who had spent most of his life around war (if going by the claim that he was the first L'Manburgian citizen by birth), and his reaction to finding out he and the other attendees were trapped during the Red Banquet was terrified screaming and trying to escape... a situation eerily similar to the Final Control Room, where he and his war comrades were similarly Lured into a Trap to be slaughtered mercilessly. And this isn't even going into him being haunted by nightmares of things to come...
    • Quackity's an interesting case, as he was apparently diagnosed with PTSD (due to the fact that he was able to name the disorder outright) from being on the receiving end of Techno's rampages during the Minecraft Monday event before he even joined the server. It's implied that he was handling it fairly well in his early days on the SMP... until the Schlatt administration, combined with Techno joining the server, which caused even more trauma for him... and then everything just went downhill from there, to the point that he, following in Wilbur's footsteps, ended up snapping as well and turning into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.


Video Example(s):



Already an old man when he was given immortality, the two millennium this former Centurion has endured in this state has left him bitter at the world and unwilling to fulfil his vow to Vlad Dracula.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ElderlyImmortal

Media sources: