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Shell-Shocked Veteran

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"There's only so much fight in a person. Only so much death you can take before..."
Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 3
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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.

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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.

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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 that mindset).


Examples:

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    Comedy 
  • In one of his stand-up routines, Bill Bailey discusses a conversation he had with someone about the traditional "things to do before you die" life-ambition of swimming with dolphins; apparently, the dolphins this person had swam with had previously been used for military service and consequently had "a glazed, far-away look in their eyes."
    Bill: [as the dolphin] You weren't there, man. You weren't there.
  • George Carlin during a routine criticizing euphemisms over more direct language, gave the use of alternative words to Shell-Shock as a primary example of such behavior.
    • In the first World War it was simply "Shell-Shock", simple and direct. "Almost sounds like the guns themselves."
    • The second World War comes along and the same condition is now "Battle Fatigue" which sounds much less terrible.
    • Then during the Korean War became the more impersonal "Operational Exhaustion" which Carlin said sounded like something a car might suffer.
    • Finally during the Vietnam war the term "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" was coined and in his opinion diluting the humanity of the condition entirely.
    George Carlin: "I betcha if we'd still been calling it Shell-Shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time."

    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.
  • 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.
  • The Transformers:
    • 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.
  • IDW's run on The Transformers comics 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).

    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.
    • This was taken directly from Zero Hour!, from which Airplane! was adapted.
    • Airplane II: The Sequel—"I lost my squadron." "Over Macho Grande?" "No. I don't think I'll ever get over Macho Grande."
  • 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.
  • In The Final, Parker is a Vietnam vet who is haunted by he experiences in the war. He eventually reveals to Kurtis that he believes he won his medals for cowardice: he hid while the rest of his unit got wiped out, making him the sole survivor.
  • Scourge in Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough has a PTSD attack in which he imagines his room turning into a war-zone and starts choking his mother.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • The Patriot: Benjamin Martin is still haunted by his service in the French and Indian War, particularly what he and his men did to the French at Fort Wilderness.
  • 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.
    • In the first movie, Kyle Reese fits this trope, having come from a post-apocalyptic Bad Future where a brutal Robot War rages between killer machines and the few human survivors. He even gets a flashback to fighting in the war from a crane in a construction site.
  • 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?
    Logan: Yes.
    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.

    Jokes 
  • 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."

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • Animorphs:
    • 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 BSoD after falling in love with King Prester John's wife, the wife of his dearest friend, and then seeing her die in childbirth — a child he sired, and later attempted suicide. Twenty years later, he is found witless in a backwater inn, but eventually recovers and becomes the page trope.
  • 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.
    • 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).
    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.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • 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.
    "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"
  • "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.
  • 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.

    Radio 
  • 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.

    Roleplay 
  • 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 
  • 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Auron in Final Fantasy X, he's even got the scars to prove it.
  • Cyan Garamonde in Final Fantasy VI is a rare example of having their Heroic BSoD happen in-game.
    • Shadow from the same game is also implied to be of this trope. Just have him sleep at the inn while playing as him and you'll see dreams relating to his past.
  • Cloud from Final Fantasy VII is a prime candidate for post-traumatic stress. He even spends a large portion of the game in a coma!
    • Although he gets better by the end of the original game, Advent Children shows that he's far from fully recovered from his traumatic experiences.
  • Metal Gear Solid is made up of these characters. Solid Snake, in particular, was nearly completely emotionally crippled by war by the age of thirty and had to work his way out of it again. Big Boss's Start of Darkness showed the beginning of his slide, but he didn't recover. Even the young Raiden gets in on it, having been one of Africa's Child Soldiers.
    Snake (laying a cloth over the face of a womannote  he just killed): I don't need a handkerchief.
    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.
    • 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.
    Niko Bellic: You remember, during the war... we did some bad things, and bad things happened to us. War, is where the young and stupid are tricked by the old and bitter into killing each other. I was very young, and very angry. Maybe that is no excuse.
  • The Psychopath Cliff in Dead Rising is a Vietnam vet caught in a flashback; he ambushes you from the vents and wields a machete. Once you take him down, he comes to his senses, and tells you as he dies that he went back to the war on seeing zombies devour his granddaughter.
  • Gears of War:
    • Marcus Fenix.
      Carmine: Hey, are you the Marcus Fenix? The one who fought at Aspho Fields?
      Marcus: Yeah.
      Carmine: Hey, cool!
      Marcus: Not really.
    • Dom, too.
      [after encountering some grub holes]
      Carmine: I used to have nightmares about those things when I was a kid.
      Dom: Shit, I still do...
  • In Kingdom Hearts I, 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.
    Shepard: Five years ago, I lost 30,000 men in the blink of an eye, and the world just fucking watched.
  • The Warcraft universe has several. Varok Saurfang and Farseer Nobundo come to mind. (Those two even qualified by being on opposite sides of the same conflict.)
    • Drek'Thar feels remorse for the atrocities he committed as part of the Old Horde, and because the Forsaken commit similar deeds without feeling anything, he refuses to help them.
  • Bao-Dur from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
    • It's heavily implied that the Exile has this even worse then Bao-Dur; the game doesn't even allow (canonically) her to recount her experiences in the war, or any other part of her life. Other characters remark on this in her absence.
    Kreia: Do you speak of all your battles? Or are there some you wish to forget?
  • It was hinted at in Metroid's manga although how much was actually Samus's PTSD is never elaborated, especially when the ending has her defeating and mocking Ridley. Another hint at it was in the ending of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, where she sits in thought reflecting of the allies she was forced to kill.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Resident Evil delves into this, particularly in the later games.
    • Chris Redfield is portrayed as such in the Resident Evil 5 viral campaign, which focuses on him trying to put the traumatic events of the game behind him. The next entry, Resident Evil 6 doubles down on this, with Chris's campaign heavily focusing on the heavy toll his work has taken on his psyche. After losing his squad during a mission, he spends several months as an amnesic drunk until his Number Two, Piers, drags him back into action.
    • Jack Krauser is strongly implied to be this in Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. To put it simply, he held a long, extensive, and distinguished 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.
    • Even Leon S. Kennedy is not immune to this trope, particularly in the CGI film Vendetta. Similar to Chris's situation in 6, Leon is traumatized by a botched mission that killed his entire team and forced him to put down their reanimated corpses. Chris and Rebecca find him making friends with an empty bottle of liquor and not in the mood to help. It takes Rebecca being kidnapped to bring him back to his senses.
  • 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.
  • Quite a few characters in the Kiseki Series end up becoming this thanks to the events of the series that have ravaged the land.
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky has Loewe and Joshua, being the survivors of a Doomed Hometown which started the Hundred Day War, ends up being shell shocked at the horrifying experience that Joshua, who was still a child at this point, was mentally catatonic and Loewe had nowhere else to go but to join with Ouroboros to judge humanity.
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has Rean Schwarzer whose had to experience at least three wars (the Civil War in II, the war for Crossbell in Divertissment against Calvard, and the off-screen North Ambria campaign before III) that by the third game, he'd rather prefer to stay as a military instructor. Unfortunately for him, the government still has his number and orders him to do their bidding with him just plain giving up and accepting his assignments because of his status as a national hero.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • Made all the more heartwrenching because the "veterans" here are seventeen year old girls. They have visibly gotten somewhat better by the end of Volume 4 though, thankfully. Especially poor Yang.
    • It's strongly implied that General Ironwood suffers from PTSD as a result of the incident that lost him most of the right side of his body, as he shifts his robotic shoulder subconsciously while talking to Team RWBY about how stress can make you see things that aren't there, "even after the battle has passed." And his mental state only gets worse after the events of Volume 3.

    Webcomics 
  • 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"

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • PTSD Clarinet Boy is this trope Played for Laughs.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • 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 and the always classic flashback of him and his men in a POW camp where he watches with horror an elephant eat his entire platoon.
    • Parodied in Team Homer, where it looks like he's going into angry flashback mode, except...
    I spent the next three years in a POW camp, forced to subsist on a thin stew made of fish, vegetables, prawns, coconut milk and four kinds of rice. I came close to madness trying to find it here in the States, but they just can't get the spices right!
    • Also, one episode (the one where Samantha arrives at the school as a new student) had Skinner at one point angrily reminiscing about Vietnam while Samantha was being checked out, the two flashbacks he was angrily thinking about was being trapped in a Tiger cage while in Vietnam, as well as his being spat on presumably when he returned from Vietnam when he was promised with a parade.note 
  • In Transformers Animated (of all things), Ratchet breaks down into this during his first in-series combat situation against Lockdown, complete with Vietnam-esque flashbacks. He gets over it eventually after talking it over with Optimus.
    • And you really can't forget the helpful effect of taking his revenge on Lockdown by forcibly removing the grapplers Lockdown stole and causing some apparently serious pain.
    • As the Season Three opener has shown through a combination of more traumatic flashbacks and severe self-esteem issues? He's got a lot more to get over.
    • This can also be seen in his attitude towards life in general. He's usually cranky, especially at "turbo-revving young punks" like Bumblebee who enjoy putting on mods and show off their battle prowess, and is dismissive of Optimus Prime's idealization of what the Great War must have been like. He was in it, and it sucked. He's often described as "Having one servo in the scrapheap." That's robo-speak for "one foot in the grave", FYI.
    • He also displays a pathological hatred of upgrades after being tortured at the hands of an upgrade addict. Problematic when they become necessary over the course of the series— he practically has a Freak Out over Optimus getting a Jetpack.
  • In Transformers Prime, Arcee has a slight form of PTSD, that didn't get showed until the twelfth episode, there she meet Airachnid again, the same Decepticon who captured her, tortured her and killed her partner in front of her eyes during the war. She almost has a Heroic BSoD when she meets her again.
  • 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.
  • Steven Universe: Many Gems who participated in the 1,000 year war have this.
    • Steven is a special case. While he wasn't alive for the Gem War, certain adventures he has while encountering certain Gems, such as Jasper and Peridot, really did a number on his psyche. That's not even counting his encounters with Bismuth and Eyeball.
    • Lapis Lazuli was a civilian caught up in a Rebellion battle, imprisoned under the assumption she was another Crystal Gem, and interrogated for ages before being left behind and uncaringly stepped on (which cracked her gem), the war did a number on her psyche.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
    • Traditional scholars claim that the Church set up the Code of Chivalry to curb the knights' violent streak. However, a recent study shows that chivalry as a concept may have been invented by the knights themselves as a coping mechanism for what we now call PTSD.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 even 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.
  • Similarly, post-traumatic stress disorder can develop in victims of child abuse and domestic abuse.
  • 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.

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