For five years in the 1990s, David J. Morris served as a lieutenant in the Marines. He went to Iraq in 2007 as a journalist, and it was there that the Humvee he was traveling in was blown up by an IED. Two years later, the psychological effects began to show as the stress of war returned in the form of intrusive memories, hypervigilance, nightmares and anger.
"The Evil Hours" is Morris' attempt to understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the culture from which it is inseparable.
To this end, Morris draws from medical history, literature and reporting, in addition to his personal experience. By a necessity that frustrates Morris, the book attends mostly to the PTSD of veterans. "Despite the fact that rape is the most common and most injurious form of trauma, the bulk of PTSD research is directed toward war trauma and veterans," he writes.
PTSD, which came out of the Vietnam War, was recognized in 1980 with the publication of the DSM-III, and since then the stigma surrounding it has lessened, but it's still common to hear people blamed for their suffering and instructed, one way or another, to just get over it. But with an estimated 8 percent of Americans now suffering from PTSD, we are starting to take treatment more seriously.
After a thorough history of the disorder, Morris guides the reader through a smorgasbord of treatments, including many kinds of therapy, medication and "alternative" approaches, such as yoga and psilocybin. He even raises the possibility that, treated properly, trauma could be an opportunity for personal growth.
Morris' own treatment at the VA involved prolonged exposure and cognitive-processing therapies, both heavily streamlined, before he found better success with a therapy based on something called intersubjective systems theory. He is mostly persuasive in his criticisms and endorsements of various treatments, but these are all colored by the fact that, as Morris acknowledges, each sufferer must find what works for himself or herself.
Ultimately, Morris argues against the reductive approach to PTSD that treats it only as a medical condition, despite the fact that our societal practices of isolating ourselves from war and silencing rape victims are leading contributors to the epidemic.
Morris has found himself in a position to help us think about PTSD with much more complexity than we're accustomed to, and in so doing "Evil Hours" takes an important and timely place in our culture.
Scott F. Parker's most recent book is "Eminem and Rap, Poetry, Race: Essays." He lives in Minneapolis.