Do revolutionaries, terrorists, and/or other paramilitaries experience PTSD and other combat-related mental illnesses?

Source: aawunder

 

Do revolutionaries, terrorists, and/or other paramilitaries (militia fighters, death squads, etc.) experience PTSD and other combat-related mental illnesses at the same rate as regular nation-state soldiers who serve in national wars? This article does not aim to provide a literature review of this question but to examine some aspects to benefit the Sociological Imagination.

One standpoint maybe that radicalisation acts as a cloak against trauma due to the personal motives for taking place. What do others say?

 

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I am not sure if there is academic research to answer your question, but I would hypothesize using the following (very simplified) framework:

·         We know that soldier’s risk of PTSD is increased if they had a history of early child abuse.

(e.g., Donovan BS, Padin-Riveria E, Dowd T, Blake DD: Childhood factors and war zone stress in chonic PTSD. J Trauma Stress 1996; 9: 361–8

Zaidi lY, Foy DW: Childhood abuse experiences and combat-related PTSD. J Trauma Stress 1994; 7(1): 33–42.

Bremner JD, Southwick SM, Johnson DR, Yehuda R, Charney DS: Childhood physical abuse and combat related posttraumatic stress disorder in Vietnam veterans. Am J Psychiatry 1993; 150: 239–53.)

·         This is related to how the human nervous system develops as an infant/throughout childhood: through experiences presented in our environment. If our relational environments are ‘safe’ we are physiologically ‘wired’ one way (more resilient to stress later on), and if we are ‘unsafe’ we are wired another (less resilient to later stress) (in general, individual genetic factors also play a role here).

(https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-science-of-ecd/) (also if you are interested about the psycho-biological underpinnings of this, you may be interested in the work of Bessel van der Kolk, his book ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ is a great resource).

·         We also know that if the environments that soldier’s return to after being deployed is supportive, there is less of a chance to developing PTSD.

(e.g., King, L. A., King, D. W., Fairbank, J. A., Keane, T. M., & Adams, G. A. (1998). Resilience–recovery factors in post-traumatic stress disorder among female and male Vietnam veterans: Hardiness, postwar social support, and additional stressful life events. Journal of personality and social psychology, 74(2), 420.)

So, the answer to your question lies in answering questions like: What is the ‘ingroup’ support for the people in these organizations like? What about early life adversity? Would it be similar to the makeup of the ‘traditional groups’ you’re thinking of? I have nothing but speculation at this point! And lots of it!

Great question!

jsundin

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