In this past decade or so, we have had our soldiers out on the battlefield protecting our rights, land and freedom. These courageous and heroic soldiers put their lives on the line for the proud sentiment of being part of this country. While at war, they see and experience things that end up haunting them; some feel that it is part of the job to be brave and to face the music. However, studies are showing that when our fellow Americans come back from war, they tend to act more detached, violent, and dissociated (Renshaw, K. D., Allen, E. S., Rhoades, G. K., Blais, R. K., Markman, H. J., & Stanley, S. M. 2011). The more serious psychological strain that soldiers often go through is commonly known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Surely, many people of this country who are not too familiar with the field of psychology have heard this term once or twice due to the vast media coverage it receives. Victims of PTSD tend to disassociate themselves after the traumatic event and it’s even worse if the soldier already has a pre-existing inclination to dissociate themselves when problems arise (Finley, E. P., Baker, M., Pugh, M., & Peterson, A. 2010). Also, many soldiers who are home tend to have trouble sleeping at night, whether it’s because they’re used to staying vigil for the sake of survival or they’re being haunted by memories, or even both. It’s very common for people who have such an intense and high-stress job to have trouble sleeping.
Another common vice of PTSD is the tendency to be more violent, however not every returning soldier is going to be more violent. There are many studies that have been and some are even underway to prove the validity of this theory. Even though the soldiers are trained to be active in a battlefield where the enemy is very angry and quite violent, it’s hard to adjust to life once you’re home. The soldier was pumped with all this information and all this training and suddenly they’re back home and expected to live a normal life again. After seeing violence and destruction, it can become a way of life. Sometimes, soldiers exhibit violent tendencies and sometimes it is the spouses who suffer.
Spouses can go through something called secondary traumatic stress/secondary traumatic stress disorder (STS/STSD), which basically means that the stress level is elevated for the spouse of the person going through PTSD (Renshaw, et. al 2011). STS/STSD can commonly be caused because the spouse is feeling empathy and is trying to respond effectively to the needs of their soldiers but are, in turn, affected by the high-stress situation. Sometimes intimate partner violence can become a factor for our soldiers; every so often we hear of a story that has a veteran being abusive to a spouse. Even some those soldiers who have never acted violently toward a significant other have worried about the possibility that their anger might reach its peak and violence will erupt from within them (Finley, et. al 2010).
Some teenagers decide they want to join the army while they are still in high school, and so they enlist themselves and suddenly they went from boys to men in an instant. No one can mentally and psychologically prepare themselves for something as vicious as a war; nobody anticipates the death of a close friend or maybe an entire company. Seeing such things can be distressing and harrowing. And when our soldiers finally come home, they sometimes bring their phantoms with them.
Finley, E. P., Baker, M., Pugh, M., & Peterson, A. (2010). Patterns and perceptions of intimate partner violence committed by returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal Of Family Violence, 25(8), 737-743. doi:10.1007/s10896-010-9331-7
Renshaw, K. D., Allen, E. S., Rhoades, G. K., Blais, R. K., Markman, H. J., & Stanley, S. M. (2011). Distress in spouses of service members with symptoms of combat-related PTSD: Secondary traumatic stress or general psychological distress?. Journal Of Family Psychology, 25(4), 461-469. doi:10.1037/a0023994
- Experts: Soldier might have post-traumatic stress (washingtontimes.com)
- Seeking the roots of a US soldier’s shooting rampage – Reuters (reuters.com)
- The Conundrum of Risky Painkillers for Veterans with PTSD (healthland.time.com)
- PTSD Affects Long After Homecoming (myfoxphoenix.com)
- “Post traumatic Stress Disorder, Neuroscience, and the Law” (kolber.typepad.com)