Posted on February 16, 2013 · Posted in Brain Injury

The Wall Street Journal did a story on a several new twists, new subsets, so to speak, of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are being called “traumatic loss” and “moral injury.”

The story explains this psychiatric issue by telling the tale of Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams, whose entire squad — 11 men — was destroyed in Iraq. He was the sole survivor, and watched as other soldiers covered his friends’ body parts with blankets, The Journal reported.

Now, back in the states, Williams is suffering from what some might call survivor guilt. And this entails different symptoms, and treatment, than traditional PTSD. The Journal pointed out that PTSD is usually triggered by fear, and vets will react in exaggerated ways to normal, nonthreatening events.

With traumatic loss, a vet will feel guilty to be living while his friends have been killed, The Journal reported, and these vets tend to isolate themselves.

Those who sustained “moral injury” include, in examples cited by The Journal, a vet “who killed a child who reminds him of his own son” and a medic who killed an enemy soldier in self-defense.

There has been just a bit of research done on “traumatic loss” and “moral injury.” A few preliminary studies have found that 30 percent of soldiers who seek treatment for PTSD “reported that moral-injury experiences were the incidents that most haunted them on their return from the war,” The Journal reported.

There has been a pilot program on traumatic loss involving Marines where the therapy consisted of vets role-playing and having talks with their slain comrades, according to The Journal.

In a good sign, the newspaper reported that Pentagon is funding a larger study, while the Veterans Administration plans a study on how to treat soldiers who are having mental problems because of their feelings about killing people during combat.



About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447