Michael's Dispatches

War Is Not Necessarily the Cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


20 August 2012

An interesting study of Danish troops and PTSD has been released.  (Link at the bottom.)  An informed group of people was talking about it on a private forum, where I saw this comment from Robert Goldich.  Mr. Goldich is smart and experienced, and so I normally stop to see what he has to say.  I republish his words with permission:

“I have, over the past 40 years or so, talked to a fair number of WWII combat veterans who, given the all-encompassing nature of the WWII draft, frequently had a fair sprinkling of real, honest-to-God, thugs and criminals in their platoons and companies.  Guys who just had a history of minor things were no problems.  The real crooks, used to a life of violent crime, invariably cut and ran.  They weren’t used to fighting when someone could fight back hard, and they were so selfish that they couldn’t bond with their fellow soldiers. One example: I remember talking to a Washington lawyer about 25 years ago who had been a rifleman and ended the war as a rifle squad leader in the 80th ID in the ETO.  Some replacements came up.  Two of them, he was told, were real Mafiosos.  They took off at the first shelling and he never saw them again.  I didn’t write up all conversations like this I had but this was typical.”

Article about the Danish study:


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matt · 8 years ago
    David Hackworth made this point in one of his books (which I can't recall at this time), that tolerance for battle conditions are akin to a cup. Each soldier's cup fills faster than others', but once filled that soldier will never be the same.

    I was fortunate to never be shot at during all my tours in Iraq (not for lack of trying, especially on my first tour when I galavanted all over Al-Anbar on my own recognizance as a young corporal & combat correspondent; subsequent tours saw a much more subdued me), so I can't speak directly to the impact of direct fire. However I have spent plenty of time with Marines with long combat experience in "famous" battles. And there's no doubt that -- in one unit in particular -- instances of serious social disconnection & mental health issues were rampant... and untreated.

    In my opinion, there can be no question that the forced sociopathy of the infantryman in early days of a campaign when every inch must be fought for, e.g. the first Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad excursions, is a truly "cup-filling" situation. Constant threat of death, the death and disfigurement of friends... there's no doubt in my mind that even the most mentally stout individual can have his cup filled by battle fatigue.

    Thanks for all you do Mike.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TheOldMan · 8 years ago
    Perhaps more time spent before combat discussing the realities-to-come, speaking and meeting with injured soldiers would better prepare soldiers for the shock?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    SHEILA SIMMONS · 8 years ago
    When we were little girls, my mother would frequently say in the morning, "Well girls, your daddy fought the war all night again." Of course, at that time we had no clue what she meant. I know now.

    No, war is not the only cause of PTSD. My now 15-year-old granddaughter still suffers it because of sexual abuse at age 3.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Daniel M. Ward · 8 years ago
    Just exactly what I saw when taking Infantry AIT in 1969. In Basic Combat Training the Army cadre had everyone under control. Then AIT became more lax and, you might say, the real make-up of newly minted "Soldiers" became to come out. When in garrison the thugs and banger types, invariably from the large urban cities (in my case the major east coast cities - Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, northern New Jersey) were the ones that seemed to make it their duty to shirk, take advantage of, and make it harder for others. They constantly tested the cadre. Some were draftees and some were volunteers (having either RA or US prefixes to their service numbers before the SSA number was universally adopted). One of my most memorable recollections of AIT was their fear during team or unit operations at night. They either avoided, by hiding out, or did exactly what a leader told them to do when fearful of the circumstances (like being in dense woods in black pitch nite time). The other was when, after being paid at the very end of AIT the nite before graduation and shipping out, two "Soldiers" mugged another Soldier in the latrine who was in their own squad. Luckily, they were identified, arrested by the MPs and put up for Court Martial. No wonder the military should do comprehensive assessment or who gets the privilege to serve.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elaine · 8 years ago
    Sheila, first I will respond to you. It wasn't just her body that was violated during her rape. Her very mind and Soul was violated in the most vicious way!
    If anyone on here has a problem with the word "Soul" -- the MIND is also part of our body which is violated without permission; or just skip over it. I do not want to distract you from what I am trying to say.
    Another entity (I* refuse to say the word HUMAN BEING) that performed an EVIL act upon your poor child. Many people think it is about a "distortion of a sexual desire." IT IS NOT. It is an act of having COMPLETE CONTROL over a vulnerable human being. As far as I am concerned, they should receive the death penalty for that. The body can heal. The mind takes a very very long time to heal and is NEVER the same.
    Just like your daughter, soldiers receive attacks to their body, minds and souls that they cannot absorb emotionally or mentally. It is such a violent shock that is NEVER supposed to happen to ANYONE!!
    It is one thing to fight; but it becomes something massively evil that they witness and are forced to combat, experience and watch happen to others on a daily basis! This BATTLE Our Military is in isn't about land, resources, etc. It is about DEFEATING EVIL...
    The mind can only tolerate so much because it IS out of the reality of what we consider to be a normal.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elaine · 8 years ago
    In other words...the MIND cannot absorb Evil....especially when it is "up close and very personal."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 8 years ago
    That makes perfect sense now because years ago in Boston, ( The North End where there is an Italian American neighborhood ) There were some bad thugs trying to take advantage of me taking my money and several real life mafia foot soldiers who rushed to the scene fought with the thugs and at the first gunshot two of the mafia foot soldiers ran away leaving me and the rest of the mafia foot soldiers fighting with the thugs from the Roxbury neighborhood which is mostly Black or Puerto Rican. These two foot soldiers had been in the war. That was an eye opener for the mafia boss of the North End. He was not too happy about it. I found out later several of the foot soldiers had been in combat in Vietnam. Thank God there were real men who could fight back that night in the North End. The Boston Police Dept. was nowhere to be found that night. The mafia boss gave me something to eat and his wife bandaged me up and the ATM receipt I had with me that night, the mafia boss gave me double the money and I did not ask for it. I thanked the mafia boss and his men. Thank God for real men who can fight back. God Bless them ...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 8 years ago
    If one of them happens to be reading this. Remember me from years ago, I went to the School for the Deaf in Framingham near the North End. Thank you & God Bless 8)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jeff Strickland · 8 years ago
    I have had PTSD since I was 11 and was never in any war.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elaine · 8 years ago
    Anyone can suffer with PTSD.
    I feel certain that I may get blasted for saying this, but I do want to respond to you.
    Some human beings come into this world as being a very sensitive person. I am like that and have had to "learn new skills." However, being around specific people, I just get out of their way. I hate empty arguments, harassment, and just plain old meanness of others I have seen. I don't know what your background is...but I do know that "psychological battering" and/or physical battering CAN and has caused PTSD.
    You don't don't have to answer me if you don't want to. Is it PTSD, or ongoing depression coupled with anxiety?
    When did you first notice it?
    What was the event just prior that you remember?
    Were there actions against you or family members that were persistent?
    When did you first notice it?
    What were the symptoms?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jimbo · 8 years ago
    I have not served in the military but was a victim of a terrorist bombing nearly 10 years ago and suffered terrible PTSD. I read an article on how the Isreli military use it to treat their victims of PTSD and so I also used MDMA to treat my PTSD and it helped me immensely.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elaine · 8 years ago
    Jeff, will you share with us the process you went through?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Veritas · 8 years ago
    That would apply to Tim Lynch of Free Range International who has recently claimed to have PTSD. His wife left him because he physically, morally, ethically, emotionally and mentally abused her. Because he has an MMPI of being a sociopath and a narcissist. Mr. Lynch is only reaping what he has sown. He was relieved from the USMC command for cause and his last fitrep recommended that he never be allowed to lead marines again - ever, under any circumstances. He lies, he steals, he cheats. This is not an honorable man, this is a man with a brilliant disguise and this latest ploy is just another act. His wife is gorgeous and an angel. Mr. Lynch's problems are truly serious and long standing. Long before any supposed PTSD or IED, those are just more excuses, a way to get sympathy, which is the number one thing a sociopath wants (Read The Sociopath Next Door). Once they have your sympathy they know they can manipulate you. Maybe if you are going to do journalism you should learn to research your subject matter better before you give them accolades that only encourage and reward their dysfunctions.The courts have found valid cause to issue a permanent restraining order against Mr. Lynch. Assaulting his wife isn't his first violent act either. He assaulted an airman on the airman's base while he was still a USMC officer. He was seeing enlisted mens' wives on base and having sex with them, something he should have been been court marshaled and dishonorably discharged for. He has threatened fellow employees verbally and with weapons and been fired because of it. He is the one who drained his wife's life savings and has has multiple drug addictions. "Serious Issues" is putting it mildly!! He has terminal STDs and he has unprotected sex with various women and has no conscience about transmitting those diseases. He has had multiple affairs with translators, prison guards, Chinese whores. A well educated whore is still a whore. So what do you call someone like that? A male tramp doesn't seem to cut it. Criminal? That sounds more accurate. Maybe some truly have PTSD, maybe others are just using it as a convenience of circumstance and as such are an insult to all of those who truly do have it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    karen · 8 years ago
    GOD bless you and your work
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elaine · 8 years ago
    Veritas, I believe his correct diagnosis is TOTAL SELF RIGHTEOUS asshole...!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Randy · 7 years ago
    I think it was Grossman who observed, or at least repeated, 98% of people who were in combat were profoundly affected and the other 2% were crazy when they showed up. I probably fit in the 2% as direct combat didn't really affect me, but a narcissistic chain of command about drove me over the edge. Cowardly, self-serving, most of their time spent protecting themselves and denying the troops. I have spent a lot of time arguing with the VA over this, when I was in a position to do so, and lost every time. It's always about the noisy part of combat with them, not the social aspects. Units with strong, lead by example leadership have fewer problems.

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