2. Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22 as therapy for his PTSD
Although records of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder survive from the ancient period, the medical community did not acknowledge it as a medical condition until the 1970s. With high occurrence in soldiers, shell shock, battle fatigue, and combat stress reaction all presented PTSD symptoms. Further research concluded that it also appeared in survivors of abuse, sexual assault, and other traumatic events. Since the American Psychiatric Association recognized the condition in 1980, its definition and treatment options have been consistently updated based on ongoing research.
In 1942, Joseph Heller served in the US Army as a pilot in bombing raids over Europe. He returned showing symptoms that we now identify with PTSD, such as nervous ticks, anxiety, and sleep disturbance. By 1952, while working in copywriting, Heller turned to writing as a form of therapy. Eventually, he had an idea for a story, inspired by his experiences in World War II. Over the next eight years, Heller developed what began as a short story into a novel.
In 1961, Catch-22 became a best-seller in Europe, months after its publication. Sales were initially slow in the United States, but it eventually found its audience. Published between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, the novel’s sarcasm and humor reached pacifists and soldiers alike, and it continues to do so today. The title itself has become its own catchphrase, describing an impossible choice between two bad decisions, even making its way into the American Heritage Dictionary.