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Psychological Consequences of Modern Combat

Elizabeth DeMars Louisiana State University English 2000 Section 67


In October 2001, the United States declared a “War on Terror� and, along with other countries, deployed troops to the country of Afghanistan in a campaign known as Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Later, the United States and its allies deployed troops into Iraqi in a campaign known as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Nine years later, both OEF and OIF continue. Every week, more soldiers are deployed, leaving families and friends behind to worry, to be the support for their families, and to miss their soldiers. And every week, more soldiers return home, many psychologically wounded from the unique stressors and horrors of combat. Purpose Statement The purpose of this report is to explore the psychological effects of combat on Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) soldiers and their families. As the future wife of an OEF/OIF veteran and as a potential clinical therapist, I seek to understand more about residual combat-related psychological issues. This paper is also intended to fulfill a requirement for English 2000 at Louisiana State University. Statement of Qualification I have been engaged to a US Marine and OEF/OIF veteran for over a year now. He spent one year in combat zones and since returning 5 years ago, has had many physical and psychological issues related to combat. Though my relationship with him, I have personally experienced many of the effects of combat on the individual, on the family, on romantic relationships, on friends and in many social contexts. I am also a psychology major at Louisiana State University with goals of becoming a clinical therapist. Review of Literature

Enough time has elapsed since the beginning of OEF/OIF that data on the effects of combat in these zones on soldiers is now available. The American Psychiatric Association, (2000) defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an anxiety disorder resulting from exposure to an extreme and threatening stressor event that leads to avoidance of related stimuli, decreases in functioning, panic attacks and behavior changes. Weinsenberg, Schwarzwald, and Solomon (1991) found that soldiers with Combat Stress Reaction (CSR) had much higher rates of lowered Perception of Self- Efficacy in Battle (PSEB) when not immediately treated and returned to battle and that soldiers with only PTSD did not necessarily have lowered PSEB unless they also had CSR. A study by Martin, Ghahramanlou-Holloway Lou, and Tucciarone (2009) found that military personal have a higher risk of suicide and a higher rate of suicide completion than the general population. The New England Journal of Medicine (2010) found that wives of deployed OEF/OIF soldiers have a higher rate of general mental health diagnosis including depression, sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, acute stress reaction, and adjustment disorders than wives of non- deployed soldiers. According to Renshaw, Rodrigues, and Jones (2009), National Guard Soldiers deployed in OEF and OIF experienced combat at similar levels to “full time� soldiers and that they have a higher incidence of PTSD and combat-related Depression than reservists in previous conflicts; however, the soldiers surveyed reported average levels marital and relationship satisfaction as compared to the general public. While in OEF/OIF combat zones, soldiers witness death, experience sensory overload, have a constant need for vigilance and flexibility, become confused as to allegiances of civilians and even enemy combatants, and question the legitimacy of the conflict (Javis, 2000). Each source addresses a different aspect of the impact combat has on both soldiers and their families.

Background Information On September 11, 2001, a series of terrorist attacks on major United States population centers shocked the world. In response to these horrific attacks, United States President George W. Bush declared a “War on Terror” and launched a series of military campaigns in the Middle Eastern countries of Afghanistan and later Iraq. These campaigns are now known by the names Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraqi and still continue 9 years later. Over 1.4 million United States soldiers have served since 2001, with troops still being deployed. Sources and Research Methods I will use information from secondary sources in this paper. These sources will include Louisiana State University Library databases as well as information from professional organizations’ publications. A full list of sources can be found in the References section of this report. Possible Implications With the number of OEF/OIF veterans growing daily, the chances of coming into contact with one are also increasing. This is especially true for my fellow LSU students and current faculty because many OEF/OIF veterans are between the ages of 18- 25 and are returning to college on military scholarships after serving. It can be beneficial to veteran students, nonveteran students, and our faculty to have an idea of the unique psychological challenges that may influence the behaviors of these students.

I also hope to raise awareness of the negative psychological consequences of war to help promote a preference towards a more diplomatic approach to conflict, a mindset that will encourage leaders to use violence as more of a last resort. References American Psychological Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Javis, John A. (2000). Emotions in the combat zone. In Mental Health Association of Nassau County. Retrieved January 2010, from

Martin, J, Ghahramanlou-Holloway, M, Lou, K, & Tucciarone, P. (2009). A Comparative review of u.s. military and civilian suicide behavior : implications for oef/oif suicide prevention. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 31(2), Retrieved January 2010, from Ebsco Host database.

Renshaw, K, Rodrigues, C, & Jones, D. (2009). Combat exposure, psychological symptoms and marital satisfaction in national guard soldiers who served in operation iraqi freedom from 2005 to 2006. Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 22(1), Retrieved January 2010, from Ebsco Host database.

The New England Journal of Medicine. (2010). Deployment and the use of mental health services among u.s. army wives. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(2), Retrieved January 2010, from Ebsco Host database.

Weinsenberg, M, Schwarzwald, J, & Solomon, Z. (1991). Effects of combat stress reaction and post traumatic stress disorder on perceived self-efficacy in battle. Military Psychology, 3(1),

Retrieved January 2010, from Ebsco Host database.

Psychological Consequences of Modern Combat  

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