The Neuroses of War

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With certain qualifications it may be said that the neuroses of war are the neuroses of peace. Nervous disorders, so prevalent among soldiers in the last war, are again a prominent feature of the present conflict and thus attract special attention and study. A wide range of clinical conditions has been included in the term war neuroses. In the last war the very acute and dramatic neurotic patterns were called “shell shock.” In the current war the more benign term “combat fatigue” has been applied to the manifestations which appear to be a direct result of war experience. Other terms such as exhaustion neurosis, concussion neurosis, fright neurosis, effort syndrome, and neurocirculatory asthenia have been found to be applicable, although some of them may be outright misnomers.

British psychiatrists, who have had an opportunity to study the problem of war neuroses at first hand over a long period of time in the course of World War II, recognize four general categories of neurotic illness in military personnel: (1) preexisting, peacetime neuroses which continue unchanged; (2) prewar neuroses which become markedly aggravated in wartime; (3) disorders of personality which are not serious handicaps or glaring defects in normal civilian life, but which are manifested in gross mental disturbance under the pressure of army routine; and (4) neuroses which occur as completely new phenomena in apparently well-adjusted individuals. This classification makes it at once evident that the factor of predisposition is the basic element in three of the four groups, and it. . .



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