PTSD from War: Exposure to Others’ Suffering Even Worse Than Being Shot At

By Norwegian University of Science and Technology: For More Info, Go Here…

We usually think that trauma from war is related to the fact that soldiers have been under constant threat of death. New research shows a slightly different picture.

The types of trauma that Norwegian soldiers were exposed to in Afghanistan greatly affected the psychological aftermath of their experiences.

Psychologist Andreas Espetvedt Nordstrand and his research team have looked at how exposure to different types of traumatic experiences influenced Norwegian veterans who were in Afghanistan.

The study shows that being exposed to life-threatening situations results in fewer post-traumatic stress symptoms for soldiers than when they experience suffering and death without being in danger themselves.

Violation of moral principle

Trauma is roughly divided into danger-based and non-danger-based stressors.

Soldiers can be exposed to danger-based trauma in classic military settings, such as being shot or ambushed. It is an active threat that is linked to anxiety.

Non-danger-based trauma is divided into two subgroups:

Witnessing: seeing suffering or death of others, without being in danger oneself.

Moral Challenges: seeing or performing an act that violates a person’s own moral beliefs.

“An example of witnessing might be that a suicide bomber triggers a bomb that hurts or kills children and civilians. Then our soldiers come in to clean up or secure the area after the bomb has gone off and experience the devastation,” says Nordstrand.

Performing actions that violate moral principles can involve killing an innocent person.

“For example, an officer may order a person shot because it looks as if he is wearing a suicide vest. But then it turns out that he wasn’t, and a civilian ends up being killed,” he says.

“Another example could be when an officer supervises and instructs an Afghan unit, and then learns that someone in that unit is abusing small children. It can be difficult to intervene in that kind of situation, but easy for a Norwegian officer to think afterwards that he should have done something,” Nordstrand explains.

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