Harvey D. Strassman
Who is Harvey D. Strassman?
Strassman, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, is best known for his documentation of a syndrome that eventually became known as posttraumatic stress disorder, a result of insights gained from interviews with prisoners of war who had been held in North Korea. He described the condition in the paper "A Prisoner of War Syndrome: Apathy as a Reaction to Severe Stress", published with two colleagues in June 1956 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Strassman conducted the interviews over several months aboard a hospital ship. He concluded that the prisoners had not been “brainwashed,” as some people had alleged. Rather, they withdrew as a defensive adjustment to the stress of being a prisoner of war. The withdrawal and suppressed emotional responses, he noted, could become so severe and complete that it could lead to a “maladaptive state of dependency in which he ceases to take care of himself even to the point of death.” He labeled the syndrome “apathy” and distinguished it from a catatonic stupor, or depression.
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