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The Irritable Heart

Increased Risk of Physical and Psychological Effects of Trauma in Civil War Vets

From K. Kris Hirst

The Irritable Heart

Engineers of the 8th N.Y. State Militia, 1861. Photo Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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Children and Adolescents in Combat

Harvard psychologist Roger Pitman, writing in an editorial in the publication, writes that the impact on younger soldiers should be of immediate concern, since "their immature nervous systems and diminished capacity to regulate emotion give even greater reason to shudder at the thought of children and adolescents serving in combat." Although disease identification is not one-to-one, said senior researcher Roxane Cohen Silver, "I've been studying how people cope with traumatic life experiences of all kinds for twenty years and these findings are quite consistent with an increasing body of literature on the physical and mental health consequences of traumatic experiences."

Boston University psychologist Terence M. Keane, Director of the National Center for PTSD, commented that this "remarkably creative study is timely and extremely valuable to our understanding of the long term effects of combat experiences." Joseph Boscarino, Senior Investigator at Geisinger Health System, added "There are a few detractors that say that PTSD [Post-traumatic stress disorder] does not exist or has been exaggerated. Studies such as these are making it difficult to ignore the long-term effects of war-related psychological trauma."

Source

Judith Pizarro, Roxane Cohen Silver, and JoAnn Prause. 2006. Physical and Mental Health Costs of Traumatic War Experiences Among Civil War Veterans. Archives of General Psychiatry 63:193-200.

An abbreviated version of this article first appeared in Science 311:927. February 17, 2006

By K. Kris Hirst, About Guide to Archaeology.
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