It is our goal in the series Psychological Dimensions to War and Peace to examine war and peace from at least two perspectives: at the national level, we consider the psychological processes that nations go through as they wage war or make peace; and at the individual level, we consider the psychological aspects of war and also its effects on the individual.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a clinically recognized diagnosis and something that is now universally accepted as a predictable reaction to war or other stressful events. It seems axiomatic that the survivor of war or tragedy deserves to be accorded a measure of sympathy, and perhaps a diagnosis of PTSD can be considered a clinical expression of that sympathy for the victim based on what he or she has been through. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1994) of the American Psychiatric Association and International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (1992) of the World Health Organization both recognize PTSD, and the concept has found its way beyond psychology and into the public dialogue and the popular press.
But it may not at first be so easy to understand why a perpetrator might also suffer from symptoms that are similar to PTSD. After all, wasn't it the perpetrator who brought about the stress-inducing situation in the first place? Why should we feel sympathy for the perpetrator and how can he or she claim to be suffering from anything remotely like PTSD? And even if the perpetrator is suffering, isn't that perhaps some fair justice?
This is the point of Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS), and in Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of