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Can It Be Both Ways?

The image of a soldier is one that usually includes toughness, persevering against the odds, withstanding physical and psychological trauma, and one who is combat efficient, yet able to be function in a contributory manner in civilian life. Such an image is found in favor for many but it is an image that runs into  conflict when post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes into the picture.

Category D under diagnostic criteria for 309.81 PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)  includes the occurrence of two or more of the following: (1) difficulty falling or staying asleep, (2) irritability or outbursts of anger, (3) difficulty concentrating, (4) hyper-vigilance, and (5) exaggerated startle response. Such symptoms, especially when combined with others such as acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (flashbacks), responding to cues with physiological reactivity, and feelings of detachment from others lead to a difficult scenario.

What are the potential consequences of asking a soldier to be exposed to the many horrors of war (thus risking PTSD occurrence) while at the same time trying to keep intact the sense of unity and comradeship that is seen as essential in the teamwork element of combat? If PTSD is inevitable in the circumstances of war, what would happen to the tight bond, seen as essential for a group of soldiers who are depending on the individual next to them, knowing that a peer may need to be removed as a means of dealing with a potentially debilitating disorder, one that could put the individual themself, as well as others, at risk?

Can both the immediate treatment of soldiers showing evidence of PTSD and the continuance of unity of those instructed to do a job requiring toughness in  any and all circumstances find a way to exist in the same scenario? Can it be both ways?

Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders-fourth edition-text revision. (2000). American Psychiatric Association.

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Russ Reglin is an associate professor of psychology at MidAmerica Nazarene University.

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Guest Monday, 28 July 2014

About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.