PTSD Originally Known as Soldier’s Heart Museum presentation sheds light on the history of PTSD

Dr. Jacob Da Costa
Fayetteville

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as it is most commonly referred to, is very much a part of the Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg communities. How much do we know about the history of PTSD? Is it something that resulted from current or recent conflicts? Many people may be surprised to learn of a study conducted with Civil War soldiers and the consequences of their combat more than 150 years ago.

Soldier’s Heart and the Civil War is the topic of a presentation scheduled for May 22 at 2:00 pm at the Museum of the Cape Fear. Dr. Matt Farina, retired pediatric cardiologist, and he speaks annually at the museum on Civil War topics, will discuss the findings of the study done in Philadelphia by a Jacob Mendez Da Costa.

In a specialty hospital in Philadelphia, Jacob Mendez Da Costa, systematically followed a group of soldiers who experienced a constellation of cardiac symptoms that he called “soldier’s heart.” Using the tools of history, physical exam and follow-up, Da Costa’s observations marked the beginning of clinical cardiology in the United States.  He published his final findings in 1871, after the war.  The paper is a classic in the field of cardiology and psychiatry because it establishes the link between the brain and the heart as a form of functional disease.  Up to this point, military medical departments in the U.S. and in Europe had been unsuccessfully seeking physical causes.

Over the next 70 years, “soldier’s heart” would morph into “effort syndrome,” “neurocirculatory asthenia,” and “shell-shock” in World War I, and “battle-fatigue” and “anxiety neurosis” of World War II.  Today it is part of the broader entity we know as post-traumatic stress disorder--PTSD.

Careful analysis reveals that there were profound advances in medicine made during and as a result of the war. Dr. Matthew Farina will talk about the early recognition of Da Costa’s Syndrome from the Civil War to America’s entry into World War I.

For more information about the Museum of the Cape Fear please visit: www.museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov, or follow us on Facebook.

Plans are now in place to transform the Museum of  the Cape Fear from a regional museum into the NC Civil War History Center. For more information and membership opportunities, visit www.nccivilwarcenter.org or follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nccivilwarcenter