Iron Man and PTSD


“Iron Man 3” is a 2013 blockbuster produced by Marvel Studios. It was the sequel to the Iron Man series as well as “The Avengers” (2012). Tony Stark aka Iron Man is one of those popular superheroes who requires no introduction. With his witty dialogues and humour, he has won hearts ever since the first installment of the series. However, “Iron Man 3” portrays another side to this superhero, one that is more human, more vulnerable. In this sequel, Tony Stark suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which was a consequence of the concluding events that occur in the prequel “The Avengers”.

After having experienced a rather traumatic event involving his obvious death, Stark is plagued by the memories of the “Battle of New York”. This is pretty evident during his supposed “anxiety attacks”, a clear manifestation of his inner turmoil and PTSD. However, Stark refuses to acknowledge his deteriorating conditions. Consequently, it creates problems in his personal life including insomnia and paranoia (he mistakenly attacks his girlfriend during one of his nightmares), and eventually a break-up with his girlfriend.

What then is PTSD? It is a psychological disorder that originates as an aftermath of a stressful and traumatic event that could include death, loss of loved ones, accidents, battle combats, and so on. Most humans are susceptible to the body’s natural response to such events in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). However, this is very different from PTSD. For starters, PTSD is a disorder that requires professional attention and treatment. Symptoms (according to the DSM) usually involve nightmares, recurring memories of the traumatic event and flashbacks, emotional distress, avoiding trauma-related stimuli, disinterest in activities that otherwise may have been of interest, being overly pessimistic and so on. The symptoms for PTS and PTSD could be overlapping.

Nevertheless, the major difference lies in the duration and intensity of the symptoms. If the symptoms last for say more than a month, and has been affecting the routine of the affected person, it is important to consider the situation seriously and seek professional help. So while symptoms of PTS may get better over time, PTSD would pose a threat to our mental well-being (in the long run) if help is not sought.

So yes, even our superheroes might require help from a professionally trained psychologist; and so do we, if we are experiencing any hindrance to our mental health.

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