Shell-Shocked Veteran

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Only the dead have seen the end of war.
George Santayana"Tipperary", Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies
We stayed mad for a very long time, a madness that almost consumed your world, until finally, before it was too late, we woke up together. But you, you are alone, you have no one to awaken you from your madness. For this, and nothing else, I feel pity for you.
Delenn, Babylon 5, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark"

The war never ended for the Shell-Shocked Veteran. They've seen and done things that no amount of therapy will ever completely heal (see the Real Life section below, though), and it's left them so irrevocably scarred they have trouble feeling, emoting, and caring about the people around them and themselves. If they continue to feel anything at all, it's usually restricted to Survivor Guilt. Thus they're usually the first to do what must be done and Shoot the Dog.

If the Shell Shocked Veteran is out for revenge expect him to become an Antiheroic Hunter, with varying degrees of success and sanity. In an ensemble show or a Five-Man Band, the Shell Shocked Veteran is usually the Quiet Big Guy or The Lancer. Often crosses into Aloof Big Brother territory if they insist on being a loner. Many a Zen Survivor has elements of the Shell Shocked Veteran in his Backstory, 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. 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.

This is normally an Averted trope. While the general population tends to think that most people can go through war and come out just fine unless they're 'wimps,' War Is Hell. Most war-based videogame and movie characters are shown to go through things that in real life would leave them completely unable to function, let alone live a normal life. Of course, this is one of those Acceptable Breaks From Reality, since the Main Character ending up a gibbering wreck or street person after taking so many hits to their Sanity Meter isn't a very happy ending. Almost any character who doesn't end up at least somewhat traumatized after war or other brutal events counts as an aversion, unless they're a psychopath (or in the lucky minority). See the Real Life section.

"Shell shock" is a nickname for what was eventually termed post-traumatic stress disorder, a real condition that wartime soldiers face but which can also be caused by any of several things other than combat.

A subtrope of The Stoic, also related to Heroic BSOD. They may be an Old Soldier. Expect him to have a Sympathetic Murder Backstory.

Examples of Shell-Shocked Veteran include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The ex-revolutionary pirate Captain Harlock of his eponymous series was one of the earliest examples of this trope.
  • Nemo, deposed king of destroyed Atlantis from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
  • Kambei, the main protagonist of Samurai 7, who has grown so tired of always leading the losing side that it is implied that he has become a Death Seeker. The same goes for his counterpart in the original live-action classic movie.
  • Lucy from Elfen Lied.
  • 16-year-old Sara Werec of Soukou no Strain.
  • Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion deserves a special mention, having had his mind broken at the tender age of 14 due to fighting Skyscraper-sized Aliens(or something) while being forced into it by his father. Oh, and Asuka, who went through a similar process to Shinji, but also managed to have the Troper Namer of Mind Rape inflicted on her.
    • The Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 version of Shinji fits this better, back in Alpha 1, along with the events of Evangelion (Including the End of Evangelion but they stopped the MP'ed EVA's before the Third Impact could occur) happening, he was fighting a war with aliens, MORE monsters, and OTHER PEOPLE. Zoom forward about 2 years to Alpha 3(Eva missed @ Gaiden and @2) Shinji's freaked out by what he saw during the chaos, but tries to offset it by being Older and Wiser and has mostly shed his old hedgehog problem. Then the events of Eva start happening AGAIN, he's mostly prepared for it until everyone except the Alpha Numbers are tanged. The shell shocked part is finally dropped after the third impact is reversed.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Dr. Knox is an Ishbal veteran who was so damaged by the war that his wife and son left him. He's incredibly scarred by what he had to do in the war, and hates any mention of the war or his comrades in it (though he does help out his old war buddy Roy Mustang when pressed). Knox may be redeemable, but he's still living in the war so far.
    • The Brotherhood-only Isaac McDougal, AKA the Freezing Alchemist is very badly scarred by the war, and by what he knows about the Ancient Conspiracy. He goes AWOL for a couple of years, and then shows up again one day, attempting to put all of Central City under ice. Once you get further in the series, his plan doesn't seem so evil after all...
    • In episode 16 of the first anime Ed comes across an Ishbal veteran (after getting off a train to find Al who was mistaken for cargo)who lost his leg in the war and refuses to have it replaced with automail because of the number of lives he took in the war.
      • In the first anime, Roy Mustang also fits this trope somewhat, as he is shown attempting to commit suicide after killing Winry's parents but being unable to pull the trigger on himself. After a flashback-based conversation with his friend Maes Hughes - where Hughes calls him out for his self-pity - he becomes determined to use his abilities to fix the country of Amestris.
        • Roy's this in the manga too. He's consumed with self-loathing, and is out to take over the country and then throw himself in prison as punishment for what he did in the war. He talks constantly about his familiarity with the smell of burnt flesh, is incapable of seeing himself in a positive light, and wants to fix Amestris or die trying. It's worth noting that in this version the trauma is entirely due to killing Ishbalans as he had nothing to do with Winry's parents murders. In fact, most of the Ishbal vets fit in the manga, with the possible exception of Kimblee and Giolio Comanche, who appear to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
    • The best example would be Major Alex Louis Armstrong who suffered his breakdown during the war when he saw the carnage he caused, and tried to help the only two survivors he could find escape. They were immediately blown up by Kimblee, who was ironically trying to help Armstrong avoid courtmartial. To make matters worse, he is actually considered a disgrace by his family for these events and still hasn't gotten over it.
      • Only Olivier does actually, the rest of his family appears much more understanding
  • Gintoki from Gintama. He lost a lot of allies while fighting on the losing side of the war, which is definitely not played for laughs (although almost every other aspect of his life is fair game).
  • Pumpkin Scissors has a subversion in Randel Oland, who was all but broken by the war, his mind is a complete mess, and the innumerable people he killed continue to haunt him in his dreams (and, sometimes, his waking hours.) But instead of numbing his emotions, this left unbelievably sensitive and very reluctant to harm other people.
  • Havok in Darker than Black. Understandable, since she had been a Complete Monster with probably the highest body count of any contractor (which is saying something) whose remuneration was drinking children's blood- and then she got depowered and her normal emotions came back. By the time we see her, she's an Iron Woobie who begs Hei to kill her if her powers ever return.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The horrible experiences he went through in the One Year War made Amuro "Shooting Star" Ray one of these. He only recovered seven years later, in Zeta Gundam.
    • An even more extreme version is Kamille Bidan from Zeta Gundam, who...isn't doing well when he shows up in ZZ Gundam, due to a combination of war trauma and Mind Rape from archvillain Scirocco.
    • Athrun Zala becomes this by the time Gundam Seed Destiny roles around. He's bitter, cynical, incapable of seeing anything but shades of grey, has some self-destructive tendencies, and cannot form meaningful connections to anyone who didn't serve alongside him in the first war. His ex-best friend/rival from Gundam Seed, Kira Yamato, slowly becomes one of these over the course of the original show, hitting rock bottom and mental breakdown around the halfway point in the series. He seems to get better, but if the Thousand-Yard Stare, flashbacks, and newly stoic personality he displays at the start of Destiny are any indicator, he really hasn't.
    • It could be argued that all the soldier characters in Gundam Wing and G Gundam particularly are this.
    • Setsuna F. Seiei, was once a Child Soldier tricked into murdering his own parents in the name of God and fighting a fruitless war. Years later, he's still in Krugis. He gets better thanks to the best friend in his life, Marina Ismail.
    • Flit Asuno is slowly becoming one, too, joining the other Gundam protagonists as bitter war veterans. Woolf Enneacle even puts it clearly, that as he fights on, he would want to kill more and more Unknown Enemies, no longer satisfied with a peaceful life.
  • A bit inverted in So Ra No Wo To where the character who experienced a heavy level of trauma during the war (Filicia) goes on to, rather than feel nothing, becomes The Existentialist and her squad's Team Mom.
    • Played straighter with Noël.
  • Some of the robots in Pluto.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, one of the villains, specifically Dynamis, is like this due to being one of the only members of his organization who survived the 20+ years of being hunted down by the good guys.
  • Sousuke Sagara, and his Evil Counterpart, Zaied from Full Metal Panic! fit this trope perfectly. They're both ex-Child Soldiers, they're both The Stoic and they both have serious mental issues. Sousuke's are normally played for laughs. Zaied's aren't.
  • Surprisingly few Shinobi suffer from this trope in Naruto, however Kakashi Hatake seems to be a Shell-Shocked Veteran since his memento of war is permanently with him. He's lost everything to war, his dad (who committed suicide after failing a mission to save his comrades), his best friend, Obito, (who, on his untimely deathbed, gave his Sharingan to Kakashi,) and even his potential love interest, Rin, (the medic of his team,) and finally his sensei, the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, after the last great ninja war. As such, when Sasuke demanded to know how Kakashi would react if he killed everyone that Kakashi cared about, his reply was to simply smile and say that he had already lost everyone precious to him.
  • Teenage mercenary Kazuma Shudo of Kagerou Nostalgia is very, very shellshocked. He can't stand being touched, is prone to violent moodswings, and throws himself into every battle without any concern for his own well-being. It's a combination of war trauma, and what he went through when his Doomed Hometown was destroyed.
  • It's heavily implied that Future Trunks of the Androids Saga of Dragonball Z is of this trope, referring to the horrific events of his future (where two Red Ribbon Androids are slaughtering several people), and at least once stopping what he was doing unwittingly to flash back to what was going on in his timeline before snapping back to reality.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Suicida, leader of Gang Green in Marshal Law, 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 definitely fits the bill. 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 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.
  • Any long-lived old-timer mutant in the X-Men series such as Wolverine, Magneto, or Cable.
    • Hell 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.
  • In Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, we eventually see that Captain Hugo Darcy's father is a WWI veteran who lost all his limbs in an ill-advised full assault and has been ranting about it ever since.
  • 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.

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • Harry Potter is already one of these, but many fanfics exaggerate this aspect of him.
  • Darkfic tends to turn Max from Across the Universe into one of these. Arguably, he's a bit of one in canon-- "everything below the neck works fine," and all.
  • Digimon fanfiction turns the North Korean Digidestined into this. Justified in that Word of God states they exist, but we never see them and there's no telling what their lives are like behind closed doors.
    • Of course, given that they live in North Korea, unless they're Kim Jong's kids, having a horrible enough life to invoke this trope is almost a guarantee.
    • Also of note: If the North Korean Digidestined is one of the tiny percentage of North Koreans who isn't dirt poor, they will be Brainwashed and Crazy or otherwise a Stepford Smiler. Again, these are justified tropes given how North Korea is in real life.
  • Frodo Baggins has become one in Bag Enders, being six thousand years old and suffering from Post-Ringbearer Syndrome.
  • Amazingly, Minato Namikaze seems to be one - in the Naruto fanfic The Girl from Whirlpool seems to be at least a mild example. Find it here.
  • Crash from MSLN Test Dummies has PTSD from his earlier run-in with the Numbers, such that meeting Combat Cyborgs, Subaru included, doesn't go down well. He gets better after Subaru pushing him too far triggers his Heroic Safe Mode and he trashes her.
  • Link in Insomnia. He's always watching his back no matter the situation, keeps his feelings bottled up almost airtightly, and counts his kills, apparently ever since Ocarina of Time.
  • In the Poke Wars series, practically all of the characters. Dawn is one of the most detailed examples.
  • Pretty much every X-COM member in XSGCOM. You would be, considering their casualty rates.
  • Forward: It seems to come and go with River. On the one hand, she's (rightfully) traumatized by everything that's happened to her. On the other hand, when she's in control, she has a razor-sharp focus that lets her bury that sort of detail far below conscious thought. And on the third hand she's still a little bit crazy.
    • Just about everyone else features shades of it, too. Mal and Zoe, of course, inherit theirs from canon, while Kaylee is still messed up over the Near-Rape Experience in "Objects In Space" and Book's past (whatever that may be) is clearly still in the back of his mind.
  • Uchiha Sasuke in White Rain - the man has issues. Multiple personal issues, for which he needs professional help.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Rambo was a POW in Nam 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 and shave him. Rambo has a flashback to getting partially flayed in Nam and freaks out, beating his tormentors and escaping.
  • Nick and Michael in The Deer Hunter.
  • Thoroughly played for laughs in the South Park movie, where the mercenary hired to help La Résistance is not discernibly older than the protagonists, themselves nine-year-olds.
  • Parodied in Not Another Teen Movie, with Randy Quaid's character.
  • 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.
  • Spoofed in Airplane!!, where the protagonist is a shell shocked fighter pilot who ends up having to fly a jet airliner.
    • Airplane! II: The Sequel- "I lost my squadron." "Over Macho Grande?" "No. I don't think I'll ever get over Macho Grande."
  • Spoofed 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.").
  • Pretty much every survivor from Bingo Crepuscule trench in A Very Long Engagement.
    • Well, Manech has amnesia; he might not be scarred.
  • Nathan Algren from The Last Samurai.
  • Walt from Gran Torino
  • 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.
  • Likewise, Clint Eastwood in Firefox.
  • All four main characters in The English Patient.
  • Parodied, then subverted with Tropic Thunder's Four Leaf Tayback, who it's later revealed made everything up, including his amputated hands.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski.
  • 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.

    • It's also demonstrated in the first of Singer's X-Men films. Surprising a sleeping PTSD vet is a bad idea. Especially when he's got adamantium-coated bone claws.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The titular villain of The Prowler.
  • Quint in Jaws.
  • Colonel Kurtz is technically still at war in Apocalypse Now, but boy has the cheese slid off his cracker.
  • Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 embodies this, and all its positive and negative connotations.
  • Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies (after the first one) is another James Cameron example.
  • Ax Crazy character Bronson in the movie Street Trash is an extreme example of this trope.
  • Addressed briefly in Patton, when the title general lambasts a traumatized soldier for what was then called "Battle Fatigue" but which Patton calls cowardice.
  • 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.
  • Frodo becomes one at the end of Lord of the Rings, too.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tad Williams' 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.
  • 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.)
  • Leia is this in Splinter of the Minds 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 JRR Tolkien was a WWI veteran. Fortunately, Beren has a half-elf, half-goddess lover to help him heal.
  • The Lord of the Rings: How many there are...almost all the Elves lefts 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). Gimli, who's never the same after Galadriel (it isn't just BAD things that can leave you with stress injuries). 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • GSV Lasting Damage later the Masaq' Hub mind from Iain M. Bank's Culture novels is a rather depressed veteran of the Culture-Idirian War.
  • All of the Animorphs become this by the end of the series. Also, Loren describes her father as a shell of his former self ever since he came home from Vietnam.
    • Rachel doesn't feel anything like this, though—which gravely concerns her (and just about everybody) thanks to what it says about her.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series could be interpreted this way. Given the things he must have seen - and how it all must have hit him after a person near to him was affected - and his reaction(s), it's quite plausible that he might have been a Shell-Shocked Veteran.
    • The main character, Harry Potter, himself is obviously suffering from PTSD, that gets worse by the time of the fifth book.
  • Katniss and Peeta after their first Hunger Games. And for that matter, all the victors come out as this.
    • Note that Katniss already had this problem, as her father was killed in a mine explosion years ago.
    • 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. Pretty dark for a YA novel.
    • Pretty much everyone in The Hunger Games has some level of this by the time the series ends
  • Basically everyone in World War Z.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "Captain America" of Generation Kill was apparently a decent officer before this set in and was part of why his real name was never given in the book.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The quote above comes from Babylon 5 and is Delenn's response to a veteran of the Earth-Minbari war who kidnapped her; decidedly one of the scarier foes she would face.
    • Given the eventual revelations about Delenn's past, in some ways she herself could be considered a Shell-Shocked Veteran who turned her pain inwards. Many of her personality traits could be explained as a result of unresolved and deeply internalized grief over what she started. It's unclear if this is how JMS designed the character but this is how Mira Furlan said she played the role.
    • There's at least one group in the Minbari Warrior caste who want to resume the war, or at least kill Sheridan. And let's not even get started with the whole Narn-Centauri thing.
    • Also, the man who thought he was King Arthur, in the episode "A Late Delivery from Avalon".
    • There's also Sinclair in the first season, who is clearly suffering from the after-effects of the Earth-Minbari war. He particularly has nightmares about fighting at The Line, where humanity suffered 90% casualties.
  • Deep Space Nine, being Darker and Edgier than the rest of Star Trek, showed particular interest in PTSD. Not surprising when you consider that the last two seasons depict the largest and bloodiest war ever experienced by the Federation, but even pre-Dominion War episodes look into it.
    • Hell, Sisko notably falls into this category. The first episode deals heavily with Commander Sisko's depression after losing his wife during a particularly notorious battle. And much later on, after the Dominion War is in full swing, he begins having hallucinations and several nervous breakdowns.
      • Nog experiences PTSD after he loses a leg in combat and stays in Vic Fontaine's Las Vegas holosuite program for a while to cope.
      • According to the Star Trek Wikia, his acting in the episode (It's only a paper moon), especially the part when he finally breaks down and starts to cry, was so close to real life that he afterwards was contacted by several combat veterans who complimented him on his work.
  • In the Andromeda Season 1 finale and Season 2 premiere Rommie appears as a Shell Shocked Veteran when a hidden computer file of her first meeting with the magog comes to the surface and subverts her programming
  • Captain Jack falls into this mode now and then in Doctor Who and Torchwood, having lived through at least two Dalek wars (In "Bad Wolf", he recounts a fleet of ships being destroyed), World War I, and World War II twice. The Doctor himself also occasionally falls into this mode when he thinks about the Time War that killed the rest of the Time Lords; his role in the war outside of its final act hasn't yet been made explicit, but it's been made clear that he was directly responsible for the (more or less) complete genocide of both species as some kind of last resort to end the war since the Daleks were winning and both sides would have wiped out every other species in the universe.

Tenth Doctor: I'm so old now. I used to have so much mercy.

  • Name a Battlestar Galactica character. Any Battlestar Galactica character, in no way limited to the ones currently in uniform. (The Razor movie is especially notable in allowing viewers to witness the events leading up to all three of its central characters becoming prime examples of the trope: one winds up as General Ripper, the other two both become suicide bombers. For opposite sides.)
  • Played straight in Blue Heelers with There Last Night, The Cull and a few others. For several years around Anzac Day or Rememberance Day there would be an episode where they invoked this trope.
  • Mal Reynolds from Firefly, as a result of the Unification War in general and Serenity Valley in particular.
    • A deleted scene from the Firefly pilot episode Serenity makes it clear that this applies to both Mal and Zoe.

Simon: If that battle was so horrible, why'd he name the ship after it?
Zoe: Once you've been in Serenity, you never leave. You just learn to live there.

  • Parodied on Seinfeld with George's father Frank. He was a chef during the Korean War, but swore never to cook again after a horrifying incident ... he served some overseasoned/slightly rancid meat and "sent fifteen of my own men to the latrine that night!" He's eventually convinced to start cooking again and helps out at a big dinner, only to go nuts when it looks like a guy's throwing up and knocks everyone's plates to the floor.
  • Dr. Hunt in Grey's Anatomy
  • Parodied in Father Ted, when Ted and a local policeman are hunting the recently-escaped Father Jack:

Policeman: [Haunted] This reminds me of Vietnam...
Ted: You fought in Vietnam?
Policeman: Ah, no man. You know -- the films.

  • Played for Laughs in Soap with the Major who's still convinced he's fighting in the second world war and attacks the neighbours because he believes them to be Nazi spies.
  • This is Played for Laughs on Drake and Josh with their grandfather, who goes crazy and thinks everyone is a German spy out to get him and even talks into a Shoe Phone.
  • Played for Laughs on the last sketch of Saturday Night Live's 34th season where a man (played by host and former cast member Will Ferrell) who vacationed in Vietnam acts like a Shell-Shocked Veteran and sings Billy Joel's "Good Night Saigon" (joined by all of the then-current cast members, celebrity guest stars Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Tom Hanks, Maya Rudolph, Anne Hathaway, Norm McDonald, and Artie Lange [from Mad TV, which at the time, was airing its final episode], and the musical guest for the episode [Green Day])
  • Rick Simon on Simon & Simon experienced PTSD in the "I Thought The War Was Over" episode.
  • Colleen Mc Murphy on China Beach became an alcoholic because of her wartime experiences in Vietnam.
  • The Drew Carey Show:

Lewis: I think Santa doesn't want to kill us anymore. We didn't get any death threats, recently. And, when we threw Kate to him and left her for dead he didn't touch her.
Kate: Yeah, he told me not to worry and that he wasn't going to rape me. He told me that after what Santa saw in the Gulf War he could never be with a woman again.

  • In Supernatural, a possible alternate future version of Dean Winchester turns into this after Sam gives in to Lucifer, Bobby is killed, and the Croatoan virus wipes out most of the planet.
    • Castiel too, though his shellshock manifests a bit ... differently.
    • Sam and Dean are both examples of this trope, although the extent to which it applies comes and goes. It is implied that all hunters are as well, or soon will be.
  • The killer in the Criminal Minds episode "Distress", who is committing his crimes because he's had a psychotic break and thinks he's still in combat.
  • Nurse Veronica Callahan on Mercy.
  • Frank tries to pass himself off as this. The rest of the Gang see through it, but he doesn't miss a beat.

Frank: Look, I didn't go to Vietnam just to have pansies like you take my freedom away from me.
Dee: You went to Vietnam in 1993 to open up a sweatshop!
Frank: And a lot of good men died in that sweatshop!

  • In Life on Mars, Reg Cole is a subversion - he didn't actually get to go to war, and that's a plot point.
    • Gene Hunt could be seen in this light, given the big reveal in the final episode: Gene is in a policemen's limbo/purgatory, unable to come to terms with having been killed as a young man in the line of duty, and thus condemning himself to fight an endless war against imaginary criminals.
  • Subverted with Dr. Watson in Sherlock. His psychosomatic injuries and therapy indicate that he's haunted by the war, but he actually misses it. This leads to him helping Sherlock Holmes.
  • Largely averted in Magnum, P.I.. Although the main characters served in Vietnam and still bear the scars from it, they seemed to re-integrate back into civilian life.
    • The recurring character Mac might be this, or he might just be using it as part of his ongoing cons. As part of the character's backstory is having had a serious brain injury in Vietnam, AND being a conman, it's hard to tell.
  • Jimmy Darmody and Richard Harrow of Boardwalk Empire both served in World War I and came back with lingering injuries (Jimmy has consistent pain from a leg wound and Harrow had half of his face disfigured) and severe shell-shock. Both are so mentally damaged by all of the killing they experienced and committed in the trenches that they take up work as hired killers with few qualms, and while they are still nice to friends, they exhibit a notable Lack of Empathy. (Especially Richard, who once proposed to draw a target out of hiding by killing innocent family members).
  • Anthony/Victor from Dollhouse became a Doll after returning home from Afghanistan with severe PTSD.
  • According to Linkara, Power Rangers' Tommy becomes this by the time of Power Rangers Dino Thunder due to years of fighting evil, where the current evil all used to be his friends.
  • Leonard on Community claims to have participated in several wars, and this trope may be an explanation for his current wild and course nature.
  • Homeland has Brody, returning home after several years of torture as prisoner-of-war. He blanks out, has mood swings, nightmares, sleeps on the floor so as not to hurt his wife and may well have undergone a Face Heel Turn.
  • The Murdoch Mysteries episode "Kommando" basically runs the "drug-addicted Vietnam vet can't cope with civilian life, or the memory of what he's done" storyline, only in the Second Boer War. There's the added twist that his former comrades are hunting him, lest he tell the world exactly what they did.
  • Bomb Girls: Lorna's husband Bob.
  • Various characters show signs of this on Covert Affairs.
    • Auggie when he wants to buy a ring for his girlfriend buys pearl instead of diamond. As a CIA officer he knows that diamonds are criminal money and doesn't want a reminder of that world on her finger.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Sonata Arctica's song Replica is about this.
  • 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.
  • "Still in Saigon" by The Charlie Daniels Band is about a shellshocked Vietnam Vet.
  • "War Inside My Head" part of the second disc of Dream Theater's "6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence" is about a shell shocked Vietnam veteran who has hallucinations of the war.
  • The narrator of Richard Thompson's "Al Bowlly's in Heaven" is a destitute WWII vet who "can't close me eyes on a bench or a bed/for the sound of some battle raging in my head."
  • "Drive On" by Johnny Cash.
  • "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Oyster Cult
  • "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 Cranberries
  • "Khe Sanh" by Cold Chisel
  • "Sam Stone" by John Prine

Stand-up Comedy[edit | hide]

  • 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".

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • 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]

Theatre[edit | hide]

Tell me, sweet lord, what is't that takes from thee
Thy stomach, pleasure, and thy golden sleep?
Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth,
And start so often when thou sitt'st alone?
Why hast thou lost the fresh blood in thy cheeks;
And given my treasures and my rights of thee
To thick-eyed musing and curst melancholy?
In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watch'd,
And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars;
Speak terms of manage to thy bounding steed;
Cry Courage! to the field! And thou hast talk'd
Of sallies and retires, of trenches, tents,
Of palisadoes, frontiers, parapets,
Of basilisks, of cannon, culverin,
Of prisoners ransomed, and of soldiers slain,
And all the 'currents of a heady fight.
Thy spirit within thee hath been so at war,
And thus hath so bestirr'd thee in thy sleep,
That beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow,
Like bubbles in a late-disturbed stream;
And in thy face strange motions have appear'd,
Such as we see when men restrain their breath
On some great sudden hest. O, what portents are these?

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Auron in Final Fantasy X, he's even got the scars to prove it.
    • Forget scars, Auron takes this trope to whole new level: he didn't even survive his own pilgrimage, yet through sheer force of will he maintained his corporeal form in order to assist the present-day heroes on their pilgrimage.
  • 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!
  • 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 (puting a cloth over the face of a woman[1] 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.
  • 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.
    • 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, Leon occupies this role, having changed his name (from Squall Leonhart) out of guilt over being unable to save his world from The Heartless.
  • Ciel in Tsukihime claims to be one of these, but we only see her through the eyes of Shiki. From the reactions of others to her and some of what she does even to him, it's likely true. After all, she goes fufufufu... Oh, and she's actually in her mid twenties despite looking the same age as Shiki or younger, and unlike Arcueid has actually lived for most of that time.
  • After a nuclear explosion kills 30,000 American troops in Call of Duty 4, the sequel introduces General Shepherd, who turns out to be The Chessmaster who essentially started World War III just so he could avenge his fallen troops and exploit the full military might of "the most powerful fighting force in the world" on anyone and everyone he wanted.
  • The Warcraft universe has several. Varok Saurfang and Farseer Nobundo come to mind. (Those two even qualified by being on opposite sides of the same conflict.)
    • Drek'Thar feels remorse for the atrocities he committed as part of the Old Horde, and because the Forsaken commit similar deeds without feeling anything, he refuses to help them.
  • Bao-Dur from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.
    • 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?

  • Samus Aran is said to be this, and understandably so. This is heavily hinted in Metroid: Other M during her Heroic BSOD while confronting a cloned Ridley, as well as the similar event near the beginning of Metroid Prime with the cyborg of the original. Not to mention her severe dependency issues when it comes to authority figures.
    • Actually, it was hinted at in the manga as well, although how much was actually 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.
  • Depending on dialogue choices, Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect 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.
    • Also a few of the background characters, most particularly Corporal Toombs, the only survivor of the Akuze incident (except possibly 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).
  • Fear Effect: Glas, especially since he was a soldier, and has now taken to binge drinking and playing games of Russian Roulette.
  • In Quake III Arena, this trope applies to many of the characters from previous Id games, especially from the Slipgate and Stroggos wars. Wrack, Grunt and Major are said to be this.
  • Jack Krauser is strongly implied to be this in Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles. To put it simply, he held a long, extensive, and extinguished service in the military as a SOCOM operative, and also underwent mercenary business whenever he had any days off from SOCOM, he has spent enough time on the battlefield to sense something is terribly wrong in an area due to it "smelling like a battlefield," and lastly is unable to function in regular society and thus needs the battlefield to function. This last part is ultimately what drives his Face Heel Turn by the time of Resident Evil 4, as a serious injury to his arm that he received during his fight against Hilda Hidalgo essentially resulted in SOCOM firing him due to it never recovering.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • 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 Survivors Guilt

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Shoutan Himei from Sailor Nothing begins the story like a classic example of this trope. And just when you think things couldn't get worse for her, they inevitably do.
  • Miss Henderson, the librarian at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. She's the only survivor of a Cosmic Horror experience. And probably Phase's mother, whose horrific trauma was when she was only six, and she's never really recovered from it.
  • Adam Dodd from Survival of the Fittest version three fits this trope, having been the only survivor of version one. It was even pointed out in am old episode of the podcast run by the site members, where one of the hosts says "the game never ended for Adam Dodd; as far as he's concerned he never left the v1 island."
  • The character Flippy from the Happy Tree Friends flash animations is a parody of this trope.
  • PTSD Clarinet Boy is this trope Played for Laughs.
  • Its hinted that Sonic is this in Super Mario Bros Z.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • 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.
    • 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.[2]
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers 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.
    • He acts relatively normal most of the time in the later seasons. I don't remember him brutally murdering anyone over surprising him, but he's been known to do so over simply being rude to him.
  • 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!

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Steve Smith on American Dad becomes one after participating in a Vietnam War reenactment for one day at a golf club.
  • 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.
  • Jeong Jeong from Avatar: The Last Airbender can be interpreted as this.
    • Iroh as well. He 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.
  • Its 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.
  • Riley's painting teacher from The Boondocks was of this trope.
  • In Family Guy, Stewie ended up becoming severely traumatized with being in the car after an incident where Lois was forced to crash the car due to Peter pooping on it from a highway bridge as part of one of his reality shows.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • 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.
    • One could argue about which is worse. As no one has seen a mass hand to hand fight of that kind in ages one cannot tell how much stress it puts on compared to the amount of time that is found just marching which is no more stressful then what a nomad or merchant had to undergo. And the combat itself usually took no more then fifteen minutes at a turn for any man, and a soldier was supported by the ability to use bestial adrenaline to keep him going. On the other hand the world wars and some later smaller ones featured constant combat for weeks on end often being bombarded without possibility of return fire.
    • Total war is not in any way a new thing. Pretty much right up until the Age of Sail, it was standard operating procedure for invading armies to kill everyone, and historically the reason soldier's pay was so low is because it was assumed that the vast majority of their income would be looted from the bodies of the slain and the homes of their families. Women were included amongst the things to be looted, naturally.
      • Total war is not killing everything. While the line between civilian and combatant blurs, and thus "kill everyone" did become more frequent, total war is not simply the slaughtering and sacking of an enemy combatant. Total war is the near total mobilization of the country's population, industry, economy, and resources to fight the war. Since even noncombatants are involved in the war effort, some would argue that they become, depending on their particular role in the war effort, legitimate targets. Since everyone and everything is mobilized, complete destruction is often called for in order to render the enemy state incapable of fighting back, as simply defeating the enemy army on the field of battle no longer meant the war was lost. In order for a state to participate in total war, it has to have an advanced infrastructure and technology, which meant that states prior to the Industrial Revolution were for the most part incapable of waging total war. The decentralization of authority that prevented wholesale conscription and mobilization of the population and lack of technology to fully exploit resources as well as overcome natural obstacles (such as winter, which pretty much ended an army's ability to wage war) meant that total war had to be a relatively recent phenomenon. It was only during the tail end of the 18th century, with the French Revolutionary Wars, that total war began to take shape, finally culminating in its ultimate form of World War II.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Just the normal process of recivilizing survivors could take weeks or months. The inmates were so traumatized they could often barely act human. Moreover any normal instinct for trusting even reasonable authority had been scalded away. It did not help that the processing could have a superficial resemblance and sometimes panic people into thinking they were inmates concentration camps. Quarantine is easily mistaken for imprisonment, and debriefing (necessary among other things to prepare for future trials) could make people suspect that they were going to be put under hostile interrogation. MPs were hardly SS guards but someone who had been under the charge of the later might be slow in seeing the difference. Medics required absolute trust of their charges and it did not help that the Nazis had tried to deceive them by saying gas chambers were decontamination chambers. Decent food and clothing were slow in coming and travel visas even slower. And perhaps worst of all they were often billeted on the very same concentration camp. In other words through a mixture of clumsiness and necessity, the reprocessing was almost as horrible for inmates as the actual camps.
    • 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 more than thirty thousand 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.
  • The term 'shell shock' originates in part from the trenches of the First World War; due to the immense and near-constant heavy bombardment that many troops were forced to live in and the vicious, near-uninhabitable living conditions, many soldiers simply snapped from the pressure and suffered mental and emotional breakdowns. Unfortunately for some of them, their superiors (whom, it should be noted, were frequently many miles away from the front) were in too many cases not at all sympathetic. That is to say, they had the soldiers court-martialed, and often executed, for "cowardice".
  • 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 (such as playing some types of video games) 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.
  • William Tecumseh Sherman, second in command of the Union armies during 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, with 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 dumping bodies 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 PSTD—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.
  • 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.
  • On that note, not all people with PTSD are even involved with military combat. People can be lastingly traumatized by anything that presents a threat to a person's psychological, physical, or sexual integrity or causes psychological or physical harm.
    • The idea that a person could face long-term traumatization from anything besides military combat came into fruition in the psychological community initially because some psychologists noticed that some rape victims suffered psychological symptoms similar to those who had "battle fatigue."
    • Ever since 9/11, it's been recognized that firefighters and paramedics who need to go into disaster areas and the aftermath of terrorist attacks are just as vulnerable to PTSD as are the police and military who go in beside them.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte, of all people, had repeated breakdowns during the later part of his career. He was almost completely impassive at Borodino and Waterloo. This was aggravated by an acutely painful and embarrassing digestive infection.
    • Similarly incongruously, Alexander the Great toward his later reign was known for behaving more and more erratically. He was always kinda odd anyway but it became more noticeable.
  • One of the oldest "folk cures" is militaristic fol-de-rol. One of the purposes of spectacle, honors, service clubs and esoteric ritual is to provide group support.

  1. Sniper Wolf
  2. This is a Truth in Television, as Vietnam veterans were not treated well by some of the populace, some of their actions including, yes, being spat upon.