Other things that happen in a combat situation can add stress to an
already stressful situation and may contribute to
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental
health problems. These things include the politics around a war, where it's
fought, and the type of enemy you face.1
Here are some things that may result in more
stress during combat.
In some wars, the enemy is clear,
but this is not always the case. In Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq), the enemy could have been anyone. A man herding
sheep or a store owner could harm you. You may be uncertain whether you are
doing the right thing when challenging people or even shooting at them. This
adds stress to an already traumatic event and can contribute to PTSD. The
guerilla and terrorist aspects of the war add to the uncertainty. This was also
the case in the Vietnam War.
In World War II, soldiers and their
families knew they were in until the end. In Vietnam and Desert Storm (the
first Gulf War), most soldiers served only one tour of duty. But soldiers in
Iraq and Afghanistan may serve more than one tour, or the tour may be extended.
You may serve a tour, come home and adjust to life, and then be sent back
If your mission is unclear, it adds
stress. In Vietnam, some soldiers questioned why the United States was there.
This also occurred in Iraq. You also may question your role in the war. Are
you a soldier, a policeman, or a peacekeeper? The military trains soldiers, and
playing a different role can add to stress.
World War II and the
Korean War had overall public support. The Vietnam War did not. Soldiers
returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan have had much more public support, but
political opinions shift.
Your view of the war also makes a
difference. If you do not feel the war is progressing, you can lose
jungle or desert is a difficult climate in which to fight. Rain, heat, insects,
and sand storms all can be stressful. What you eat and how you are housed can
add to or reduce stress. Physical problems, such as an aching back or sore
knees, also add to stress.
Wright KM, et al. (2012). Alcohol problems, aggression, and other externalizing behaviors after return from deployment: Understanding the role of combat exposure, internalizing symptoms, and social environment. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(7): 782–800.
January 9, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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