A new twist on war time PTSD: did it start before the war?


New research shows that many soldiers exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome were suffering from poor mental health prior to being posted in a war zone.

Data taken before, during and after war experience

A large scale survey reveals that the mental condition of military personnel before, during and after their experience in Afghanistan has given mental health care providers new data to consider. Approximately 750 Danish soldiers took part in the study by answering questionnaires throughout their time in Afghanistan and then three times after their return to Denmark.

PTSD may have started before the war

They found that typically, it is not the experience of war that triggers the emergence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), explained Professor Dorthe Bernten of the enter on Autobiographical Memory Research, Department of Psychology, Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences. The soldiers’ experiences were not as simple as war trauma leading to PTSD. The entire life of the soldier had to be considered. Because the survey included data on the soldiers’ state of health before their departure, during their tour of duty and after their return, it revealed that many had already experienced trauma before going to Afghanistan.

Childhood trauma found in childhood

The assumption has always been that the violent experience of war caused PTSD. This report provides a new perspective. The soldiers fell into three categories. The first category had some PTSD before the war and actually improved during it. The second group was “robust” and did not let the war experience affect them. This was the largest group. The third group appeared initially like the robust group, but their mental state deteriorated during the war and did not recover after. When their life stories were surveyed, it was discovered that they had experienced childhood trauma. The war experience was not the crucial component; it was contributing, not decisive.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Aarhus University


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