The Environment and Mental Health: A Guide for Clinicians

By Ante Lundberg | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Psychological Aftermath of Participation in the Persian Gulf War

Kevin Brailey Jennifer J. Vasterling VA Medical Center, New Orleans

Patricia B. Sutker Tulane University School of Medicine and Louisiana State University School of Medicine

In recent years, a growing literature on reactions to life-threatening trauma has documented the devastating effects of war among prisoners-of-war (POW), political prisoners and victims of torture, and among combat veterans of World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War (cf. Staker, 1991; Sutker, Uddo-Crane, & Allain, 1991; Yehuda & McFarlane, 1995). Such research has suggested that the extraordinary stresses associated with war-zone exposure lead to increased vulnerability to psychological symptomatology such as negative moods, psychiatric disorders including posttraurnatic stress disorder (PTSD), compromised cognitive functioning, and physical complaints (cf. Green, 1990a; Green, Grace, Lindy, Gleser, & Leonard, 1990; March, 1990; Sutker, Vasterling, Brailey, & Allain, 1995; Sutker, Winstead, Galina, & Allain, 1991). However, findings generated by studies among war veterans suggest that there are no simple generalities to describe war stress across individuals or to draw consistent parallels from one military conflict to another. In addition to individual difference factors, the impact of both military and civilian trauma seems to be influenced by the nature and severity of stressful experiences and the unique characteristics of adverse circumstances ( Bartone, Ursano, Wright, & Ingraham, 1989; Green, 1991; Kulka et al., 1990). Symptoms have been found to vary in frequency and intensity depending on such factors as exposure to injury, death, and grotesque events, elements of unexpectedness and unpreparedness, and degree of personal involvement with the disastrous event or person affected ( Foa, Steketee, & Rothbaum, 1989; Green, 1990b; Smith,

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