I’m sure most of us are familiar with the term PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’re used to hearing about PTSD it in the context of war and active combat, it’s also prevalent after experiencing natural disasters, car accidents, sexual assault, and other life-threatening events. However, in the novel Zone One by Colson Whitehead, a psychotherapist named Dr. Neil Herkimer presents a new diagnosis: PASD, or Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder.  While I was reading about the condition, I was wondering why it wasn’t just called PTSD. I assumed that an event such as the one the novel focuses on (the apocalypse) would fall under the same category. After googling and reading more about PTSD, I realized how wrong I was.


Both conditions entail symptoms such as changes in sleeping habits, weight gain or weight loss, nightmares, feeling jittery and paranoid, loss of energy, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts of death, dying, and suicide, as well as negative thinking in general. These are only some of the existing similarities.

The two main treatments for PTSD are psychotherapy and medication. Usually patients combine the two treatments.


However, in Zone One, Buffalo ships out “Living with PASD” pamphlets to settlements, but really the only treatment seems to be the dietary guidelines mentioned in the pamphlets. The main discrepancy between the two conditions is that while PTSD affects roughly 8% of the American population, this fictional PASD affects 75% of the population, excluding the 25% with preexisting mental conditions.


“A meticulous inventory with a wide embrace. Not so much criteria for diagnosis but an abstract of existence itself, Mark Spitz thought” (Whitehead 68). This quote shows up in the text after the list of symptoms, and essentially means that these symptoms are the general thoughts, feelings, and habits of the affected, or rather, the rest of the living population.

The difference between PTSD and PASD is that while PTSD refers to those affected by experiencing or viewing a life-threatening event, PASD or other preexisting conditions affect the all of the living.

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