Psychological Trauma

Definition: Psycological trauma is the damage to a person's thoughts, behaviors, and personality caused by a tragic event.

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History: There has been a lot written about the responses to the stress of the battlefield from WWI and WWII. Psychiatrists noticed that soldiers went into a daze. They didn’t know their name or where they were. They were maybe trying to forget the horrors of war and that brought on these reactions. Soldiers also had the shakes, stutters, tics, and tremors. It was called “shell shock.” So many soldiers had this after WWI that medical experts were not prepared for it. After another major conflict, the Vietnam War, psychiatrists saw stress trauma again. Some people called these symptoms in the soldiers “Vietnam Syndrome.” Data from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study showed that depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and substance abuse was higher in combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Today this is called “personality disorder” by the medical community.

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Specific Examples of Psychological Trauma: A significant number of soldiers returned from Vietnam with psychological related problems. Many of them were diagnosed with PTSD. This disorder was caused for many different reasons. Soldiers saw the dead bodies or even the killings of many civilians in villages. They also witnessed people in great pain as they were attacked by booby traps or immoral weapons such as napalm. Most of the people are still scared to death because they spent years in the jungles of Vietnam knowing that they could die any second.

One specific man had his story explained by his wife. He was an infantry soldier that served two tours in Vietnam. She said that he seemed like a totally new person when he came back. He could not be outside alone at night because it would make him uneasy and restless. While he was sleeping he had to be alone, for if he was touched he would suddenly wake up and feel as though his life was threatened and grab on to whoever was near by. Certain smells and foods made him uncomfortable also. For examples, he could not go to a gas station because the smell of the gas and fumes set him off so easily. This man's life was dramatically changed by his service in the military. After, he could not even function correctly. It eventually came to the point where he lost his wife of many years because she could not take it anymore.

Why We Should Care:__ To make soldiers better requires a lot of money and time. It is a long term illness. Soldiers can become depressed or even suicidal. They can lose their control over their lives. Many also live a lower quality of life. Follow up mental health care is needed for veterans with mental illnesses after military deployments. Better preparation for traumatic situations before the soldiers go to the war might help.