This is actually difficult for me to answer because irl I’m friends with an Afghanistan vet with PTSD who has actually given talks on it, and I don’t want to get it wrong. I should probably ask him about it; I know he’s not terribly into Sherlock whereas his wife likes it, and I’ve wondered if that’s why, but I haven’t asked.

All I can say, based on what I’ve watched and read, is that the idea that civilian life feels meaningless once you’ve been in life or death situations, and the idea that some vets crave the camaraderie they once had, is actually one manifestation of PTSD. I don’t know how common it is, but I’ve watched interviews with vets in group therapy who expressed just that. The Hurt Locker was about aspect too, iirc. Not all vets want to go back to war, but some absolutely do.

Nightmares and tremors are more standard, I think. 

As far as psychosomatic limps go, I don’t think we’re even supposed to take that as a PTSD thing? I’ve always thought we’re supposed to take it as a separate issue, some crossed wires with John’s shoulder wound? Like his shoulder wound invalided him home when he’d rather be at war, so in John’s mind it’s made him worthless and he gets a limp on that same side of the body to reflect how rusty and out-of-action he feels.

I disagree that it’s never referenced again. John’s PTSD doesn’t go away, he just keeps the worst of it at bay by constantly risking his life with Sherlock. It’s enough to keep John from suicide and that’s it: John is still routinely depressed, he just has distractions now so we quit getting visual suggestions that he’s just going to shoot himself in the head. I mean, we don’t hear the term “PTSD” but it’s THE defining aspect of John’s character. In series three it becomes pretty clear that everything John does is either a way to feed his need for danger, or a way he attempts to run away from that aspect of his psychology. We find out that when he’s no longer living with Sherlock, he goes to therapy again and at least tries to deal with his issues in a less reckless way. On his blog he talks about how he’s “addicted” to danger and Sherlock. Sherlock flat out tells him as much in His Last Vow. John’s entire character arc is based around his trying to reconcile his need for danger with his inability to live a “normal” healthy life, and that all started for him in Afghanistan. He still dreams about Afghanistan in His Last Vow, even, only those dreams apparently take a different turn now where Sherlock shows up with a dangerous case.

All Sherlock did was get rid of John’s limp and keep John from killing himself. John still has every other issue he had in the first episode. That stuff didn’t go away and still torments him, which seems realistic to me. The only reason it may not seem more obvious is because John is too emotionally scarred to talk about his feelings and always has been. He does the stoic soldier act just to get through everyday life. He even unconsciously assumes parade rest when he has to start difficult conversations.

As for Sherlock in series three… Sherlock was tortured and god knows what else while he was gone, so it’s not really surprising that he has suicidal ideation (just sitting passively while being blown up by terrorist bombs in his mind palace, agreeing with Major Sholto that one should basically just die when they get the opportunity, not caring enough about himself to stay off drugs, etc) and the scary stuff where he slaps himself across the face. Suicidal ideation comes along with PTSD, but I don’t really know about the rest of it.

We’ll probably hear more about what happened to Sherlock while he was gone in the next series or two, but PTSD or not, Sherlock’s always been a suicidal mess too. Both he and John use cases to keep from killing themselves and that’s been the theme since the first episode. It’s always been a very dark show if you examine it. Both of them run from their emotions instead of dwelling or talking about them so it’s easy to forget, but everything they’ve ever done has a very life-or-death motivation behind it.

Anyway, I’ll ask my friend about it and see if he has anything to add. I don’t think he’s watched series three yet and I don’t know if he intends to, so we’ll see.

This agrees with everything I’ve learned about PTSD.  John’s extreme stoicism could also be a symptom.  It’s always difficult to talk about trauma, and for soldiers it’s often doubly hard because they’ve been a part of something that, sometimes, they feel guilty for, or at least that they feel could earn them stigma from the people whose goodwill and love they cherish.  Sometimes they also feel that if the people they love did understand and felt compassion for them because of it, it would be tainting them, because ‘good’ people shouldn’t have to bear the shadow of such things.

After all, how do you explain to an ordinary person that the place where you feel the most alive and valuable in the world is in the middle of violence and death?

I disagree about Sherlock having suicidal ideation or PTSD, though.  The only things we’ve seen from him along those lines are shock when he was shot (and that’s not PTSD, that’s just shock over being shot) and arguably the bit in that room with the skeleton where he was batting away John’s voice.  

But I don’t think that was an auditory hallucination.  We know that 1: it’s the only time it happens and 2: Sherlock has a history of imagining John in the room even when he’s not.  So I think that was just Sherlock getting distracted by his own imagination.  Much like in HLV when naked Irene turned up in the middle of his mental visualization.  I think both those events are meant to represent Sherlock’s emotional life intruding into his intellectual work.  They’re not trauma; they’re just him feeling so deeply that it’s inhibiting his ability to work.

And the drugs were indeed for the case.  His pattern of usage was clear and consistent throughout HLV (he avoided abusing them except when there was someone present he was trying to convince otherwise), and at the end, even CAM dismissed Sherlock’s attempts to portray himself as an addict as untrue.

Just because someone has used drugs does not mean that they have an addiction.  There is always a danger of it, but the instant jump to equivilating the two comes largely from childhood anti-drug propaganda which was attempting to scare us away from ever even thinking about trying drugs.

I would just quickly say that in TSoT, when John is talking to Major Sholto, John says that he goes for a top-off “every now and then” of tricyclics. (At least I think that’s what he’s saying. He doesn’t pronounce it quite right.) Which are tricyclic antidepressants. He then suggests to Sholto that therapy is quite helpful. So this implies both that John is still on medication for his PTSD and associated depression, and also that Major Sholto suffers from PTSD. This is made clearer toward the end when Sholto says that he has a gun in his hand and “a lifetime of unfortunate reflexes,” referencing the hypervigilance that is symptomatic of PTSD.

Had a Brit correct me on this point. 🙂

‘Trick cyclist’ is UK slang for a psychologist.  So they’re just talking about John’s therapist.

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