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In combats, soldiers experience traumatic events that may challenge their mental health, their view of the world and themselves. Depending on the severity of the trauma, veterans are affected in different ways and experience long-lasting effects. Post-traumatic stress disorder makes a person feel that he or she can never cope with the consequences or return to normal life. The soldiers that passed the war had experienced such terrible events that they need a psychological assistance to assimilate in the community. In peaceful society, the military methods of dealing with an enemy are not recognized by the law. Thus, it becomes a serious problem for those people who are used to react quickly to any threat at the battlefield. It becomes a real challenge to get rid of this habit, and often the veterans require the restoration of the psyche that should be carried out by a professional doctor.
This study aims to observe how war causes mental health issues of PTSD in veterans after the war experience.
War and Psyche
Military operations leave nobody indifferent because wars have claimed many lives and traumatized psyches of the common people, as well as the soldiers. Many of those who survive will suffer from its consequences for the rest of their lives, looking for ways to cope with the stress or seek for relief. However, some scientists distinguish between stress and traumatic stress. If, in the first case, it results from tension caused by the influence of varying intensity of the environment stimuli or stressful life situations, in the second case, it comes from the state arising from something that goes beyond the usual tensions (McDermott, 2012). Numerous studies have found that staying in traumatic situations can lead subsequently to specific changes in the psyche (Lawhorne-Scott & Philpott, 2011). However, experiencing traumatic situations is only one aspect of the main reasons that may cause post-traumatic stress.
Another but no less important aspect is the way how a person reacts to a traumatic event and how and he or she outlives these experiences. In other words, it is the question of the level of emotional stability of an individual, one’s personal resources, and qualitative originality of protective psychological mechanisms, the presence or absence of close emotional ties with others, their support, and other factors. Among the traumatic situations, the experts define the participation in hostilities, violence, and natural and technological disasters. During the war, a person is not only a witness to the violence but also an active participant; and it is another source of traumatic experiene.
Specialists diagnose PTSD based on well-designed clinical criteria while non-specialists call it “the disease of the soul”; they say that it is not a mental disorder but rather the reaction of a person to severe emotional shocks (Ralevski, Olivera-Figueroa, & Petrakis, 2014). Generally, a person has a high level of capability to adapt to any changes in life and different conditions of survival. This adaptation happens on both the physical level and mental levels. Thus, to survive in conditions of combat, soldiers develop skills and behaviors that, according to generally accepted standards of peaceful civilian life, cannot be called normal. However, the acquired patterns of behavior are so deeply rooted in the mentality of the veteran that it may take many years to curb their effect and develop standard behavioral models. Trained to survive in combat conditions, being hyper-vigilant, a soldier that returns to an ordinary life continues to behave in the same way as he/she used to do during the war. He/she continues to perceive the surrounding reality as if in constant danger.
The Main Features of PTSD
The main features of this condition are as follows. It is possible to distinguish two main types of personal response to experiences. First, when the past does not “let go”, obsessively and relentlessly returning images and thoughts of what had happened (McDermott, 2012). The memory suddenly evokes horrible and unpleasant scenes associated with the experience. Every hint, anything that might recall the past (sight, smell, and reminiscence of something) recover pictures of traumatic events from the depths of the “black hole” of the memory. Veterans say that it is enough to hear the sound of a helicopter to bring back the images and representations of the newly embraced consciousness when a person re-experiences the previous emotions. According to McDermott (2012), these memories can last from a few seconds and minutes up to several hours, and, consequently, a person experiences severe stress.
The second type of response is a traumatic experience that is consciously superseded when a person tries to eliminate the thoughts and memories of the previous experiences and tends to avoid situations that might evoke those images. However, unwanted memories are realized in the form of nightmares and, sometimes, as the visions reproducing traumatic situations. People wake up in a cold sweat, panting, with a pounding heart, strained muscles, and feeling completely overwhelmed (Ralevski et al., 2014). Also, there can be an increased startle response to unexpected or loud noises. At the slightest surprise, peopple are making a swift movement; they can throw on the ground if they hear the sound of flying helicopters. Often, hearing someone approaching from the back, people suffering from PTSD abruptly turn around and take a combat position.
Dangerous Outcomes of War for Combats, Veterans, and Society
Admittedly, American society has faced numerous social, medical and psychological problems among those returned from the Vietnam War. Statistical data is a good illustration of this. Thus, the number of suicides among the participants of the Vietnam War by 1975 exceeded the number of those killed during the war three times, and the divorce rates among them raised to 90 percent (Lawhorne-Scott & Philpott, 2011). One-third of all prisoners in the US prisons are Vietnam veterans (Ralevski et al., 2014). Alcoholism, drug addiction, professional and social conflicts are observed among those who have returned from the hot spots. Approximately one-fifth of all Vietnam war veterans showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Lawhorne-Scott & Philpott, 2011). Large-scale studies that have been conducted in the framework of public service help the US veterans to overcome PTSD. There are no exact data on how many veterans of the Afghan, Vietnamese or other wars are suffering from PTSD, but the terrors of the military operations are the same, thus similar psychological consequences in the war victims.
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Findings reveal that before the estimation of the essence of post-traumatic stress disorder, it is necessary to go through the rehabilitation program (Lawhorne-Scott & Philpott, 2011). American clinicians have examined the condition that occurs after experiencing traumatic stress and defined it as post-traumatic stress disorder, making it as a separate disease according to diagnostic standards. It allows people diagnosed with this condition to qualify for a pension.
PTSD is a heavy war burden that veterans and combats bare throughout their lives even in a peaceful environment. The ravages of war continue to influence them depriving them an ability to return to the civilian society. Veterans often suffer from depression. They feel insecure, useless, and rejected. In a state of depression, post-traumatic stress reaches the maximum scales of despair when people lose the meaning of existence. All these features are accompanied by exhaustion and apathy. Moreover, nightmares and visions cause sleep deprivation and exhaustion. These symptoms develop after experiencing the situations that go beyond personal and, from the point of view of the majority of people, ordinary life representations.