The First World War: trauma and memory
The First World War: trauma and memory

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The First World War: trauma and memory

3.2.3 War neurosis and post-traumatic stress disorder

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Figure 17 A wounded Vietnam veteran

War neurosis continued to pose a problem for the US Army, particularly in the wake of the horrors of the Vietnam War.

The term ‘post-Vietnam syndrome’ was developed to describe the psychological aftermath of this conflict, during which many soldiers had witnessed exceptionally brutal combat conditions. Vietnam also helped give rise to modern medical understandings of traumatic neurosis. It was shortly after the conflict that the term ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD) was developed to describe the psychological disorders brought about by exceptionally traumatic events. Unlike labels such as shell shock, the term was not purely limited to trauma resulting from combat, and was applied in a wide variety of contexts.

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Figure 18 Grief-stricken American soldiers during the Korean war

Today, the term continues to be used to diagnose psychological casualties of war, and despite vast improvements in psychiatry, post-traumatic stress remains a pressing issue in the wake of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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