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What Were The Psychological Effects Of Ww1

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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 February 2008

Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London, UK
B. Everitt
Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London, UK
S. Ironside
Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London, UK
I. Palmer
Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London, UK
S. Wessely
Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London, UK
*Address for correspondence: Professor E. Jones, Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research ,

What About The German Side

When comparing the Queen Square records with those of an equivalent German institution, the psychiatric department of the Charité in Berlin, it becomes clear that hysterical fits were much more frequent among German than British soldiers. This observation, which is supported by medical publications of the time, as analysed in my recent paper in Medical History, suggests that similar traumatic triggers can produce different clinical reactions in different cultural settings.

Epileptic seizures had already been recognised as a phenomenon of abnormal electrical activity in the brain before the war. Electricity was also the driving force behind the industrialisation and rapid modernisation of Berlin, the city which by the start of the 19th century had become the world capital of electrical engineering and whose culture was dominated by the innovations of the electrical industry, from the cinema to the electric tramway. In this context, unleashing the forces of electricity in reaction to the shell shock may have been an almost natural, or at least understandable, way of dealing with the trauma.

The history of shell shock and other post-traumatic reactions clearly shows how cultural factors can shape the expression of trauma and distress. There are many cultural factors that might have influenced the way in which traumatised soldiers presented .

Unifying And Expanding Psychology

Federal funding after WWII enabled the field of psychology to grow exponentially. The money provided by the federal government was able to fund psychology education, training, and research. With its broadened scope, the need to unify the disparate factions within the field of psychology was brought to light. The American Psychological Association had existed for 50 years and was by far the largest psychologist organization but it primarily represented the academic side of psychology. The applied side of psychology was growing at a fast clip and the APA needed to evolve to encompass those changes. The increasing role of women and minorities also wanted a place at the table. In 1943, the Intersociety Constitutional Convention of Psychologists was held to unify the factions of psychology into one organization. Although the union was not initially without some conflict, the smaller organizations recognized the expansion within psychology and saw that the APA could provide an overall organizing body. Thus, they acknowledged that, as a unified whole, they were better able to promote, expand, and legitimize the interests of the field of psychology. Between 1946 and 1960, APA membershipincreased by approximately 300 percent. Largely as a result of WWWII, psychology had gained a foothold as a stable presence within academic and clinical practice.

M.S. Broudy

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Trauma And Ptsd Today

Though the concept of shell-shock shares many features with PTSD, ideas of what constitutes trauma and treatments have since changed dramatically. The focus towards treating underlying cognitive and behavioural symptoms has shown a great reduction in the physical consequences of trauma observed during World War I. Service personnel are routinely screened for symptoms of trauma before and after deployment identifying issues early reduces the risk of developing PTSD, whereas shell-shock treatment focused on treating symptoms once they became severe.

Nevertheless, many of the same challenges observed a century ago are equally relevant today. The stigma attached to mental illness still obstructs people from receiving treatment, causing many to self-medicate with alcohol to ease their symptoms instead. Such challenges are not unique to veterans either refugees and sexual assault survivors are also deeply affected by trauma, but often face barriers to receiving proper treatment, exacerbating their PTSD.

Overall, we have a better understanding of what trauma is because of World War I. Although modern treatments for PTSD are more effective than those for shell-shock, issues such as social stigma and alcohol misuse remain. These are lessons from World War I we are still learning. We must not forget the challenges facing service personnel exposed to trauma, both today and a century ago.

Psychological And Emotional Effects Of War On Soldiers

Wwi impact
  • ing the effects internment had on Ukrainian-Canadians, you may wish to consider the: various physical and psychological effects internment had on internees while they were interned and after they were release
  • Weapons of World War I. World War I is often considered the first true ‘modern war’, a conflict fought between industrialised countries equipped with modern weapons. It saw the rise of powerful weapons such as heavy artillery, machine guns and aeroplanes – and the decline of 19th-century weapons like sabres and bayonets
  • American War Loans. -At first, USA only sold weapons and supplies to Allies. -By the time the war ended, America had loaned approximately $2,000 million to Britain and France. 1919: European debt = $10 billion. Article 231: War Guilt Clause. – Germany to take full blame for WW1 and pay £6,600 million as reparations
  • Children whisked to the countryside were supposed to be able to escape not only bombs but the psychological scars of war. However, former child evacuees and experts learned later that Operation.
  • The Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WWI Study of the Psychological Effects of War – Kindle edition by Moran, John. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading The Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WWI Study of the Psychological Effects of War
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    War Psychiatry And Shell Shock


    During the First World War soldiers from all combatant nations suffered from a wide range of debilitating nervous complaints as a result of the stresses and strains of modern warfare. War psychiatrists struggled to manage these complaints and shell-shocked men struggled to ensure that they had decent treatment and proper pensions. In each country the politics of shell shock differed but, regardless of context, men protested against unjust or inadequate treatment throughout Europe and the history of shell shock is part of a wider history of trauma and also a history of popular protest.

    Prosthetic Limbs And Rehabilitation

    Military surgeons have always been involved in the rehabilitation of war veterans, designing prosthetic limbs, and developing expertise in fields such as plastic surgery, neurology and psychiatry.

    Prosthetic legs designed by military surgeon Ambroise Pare, 1564

    Members of the Essex Regiment wearing prosthetic limbs in rehabilitation at Queen Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Roehampton, 191418.

    St Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton became a centre for the manufacture of prosthetic limbs in both world wars.

    Artificial right leg, New York, United States, 191014. After their experience during the American Civil War , American limb makers were better equipped to deal with the demand for limbs in the First World War than the British companies. They were brought over to set up the manufacturing workshops at Queen Marys Hospital in Roehampton.

    Surgeons such as Thomas Openshaw , at Queen Marys Hospital in Roehampton, continued to design prosthetics such as this hand. The wooden hand was designed with the little finger and ring finger fixed in position and reinforced with metal, to make it easier to carry bags. The thumb could also be moved using a pull-cord.

    Soldiers doing rehabilitation exercises at St Mary’s, Roehampton during the Second World War.

    Hospital bed cycle, designed by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1949.

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    Shell Shock And Combat Fatigue

    From aerial combat to poison gas, WWI introduced terrifying new combat technology on a previously unimaginable scale, and soldiers left the front shattered. Seemingly overnight, the field of war psychiatry emerged and a new termshell shockappeared to describe a range of mental injuries, from facial tics to an inability to speak. Hundreds of thousands of men on both sides left World War I with what would now be called PTSD, and while some received a rudimentary form of psychiatric treatment, they were vilified after the war. As historian Fiona Reid notes, shell-shock treatment was constantly entwined with discipline in militaries that had trouble aligning their beliefs in courage and heroism with the reality of men who bore invisible wounds.

    By World War II, psychiatrists increasingly recognized that combat would have mental health ramificationsand concluded that too many men who were prone to anxiety or neurotic tendencies had been selected to serve in the previous war. But though six times as many American men were screened and rejected for service in the lead-up to the World War II, military service still took its toll. About twice as many American soldiers showed symptoms of PTSD during World War II than in World War I. This time their condition was called psychiatric collapse, combat fatigue, or war neurosis.

    Effects Of World War 1

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    The effects of World War 1 are still being felt a century after its conclusion. It was the deadliest war which involved more countries and was more expensive than any other war before it. The weapons used during WW1 were also more advanced than any previous war, using tanks, submarines, poison gas, airplanes and long range artillery. Over 9 million military personnel died during this war, and over 7 million men were left permanently disabled. It is not surprising that the effects of WW1 were still evident decades later.

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    War And Mental Health

    Veterans with mental health conditions resulting from their wartime experience often needed continuing treatment and support after the war.

    Both World Wars impacted the fields of psychology and psychiatry, as specialists were called upon to treat soldiers suffering from debilitating stress and trauma. Special units were set up to receive soldiers experiencing mental trauma, some centres were near the war zone so soldiers could return to the front once they recovered. More serious cases were sent back to military hospitals in the UK.

    Successive wars have had their own ways of describing and dealing with mental health conditions resulting from war:

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    Battle Fatigue: ‘every Man Has His Breaking Point’

    Battle fatigue or combat stress reaction was a term used in the Second World War to describe a range of behaviours resulting from the stress of battle. The most common symptoms were fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one’s surroundings and the inability to prioritize.

    Battle fatigue was usually a short-term condition but could develop into something more serious.

    Men and women diagnosed with battle fatigue were removed from the front line for rest and recovery. Treatment was not very effective, and 40% of medical discharges from the military during the war were for psychiatric reasons.

    Military psychiatrists were more sympathetic towards troops in the Second World War than the First World War. The slogan ‘every man has his breaking point’ was used to warn people about the danger of stress.

    The idea that anyone could succumb to stress reduced the stigma surrounding battle fatigue, and helped traumatised soldiers to be accepted when they returned home. The focus shifted from the weak or inadequate soldier to the traumatic situation.

    Shell Shock After The War: Pensions And Politics

    The Impacts of WW1

    In addition to this underlying discontent, the treatment of war neurotics continued to provoke high-profile political scandals in the post-war years. In Britain concerns about shell shock were dominated by two issues: lunatic asylums and courts-martial. Soldiers suffering from shell shock should not have been labelled as insane and should not have been sent to lunatic asylums, nevertheless many of them were and they were often placed some distance from their homes, making family support difficult, if not impossible. In addition, lunatic asylums were popularly known as pauper lunatic asylums because they were traditionally populated by those unable to afford a private clinic. That the government later agreed to pay for service patients to be treated as private patients was largely irrelevant: ex-servicemen and their families deeply resented the twin stigmas of insanity and poverty. In response, the Ex-Services Welfare Society , initially established by the wives of shell-shocked men, campaigned on behalf of veterans in asylums throughout the 1920s. The ESWS provoked government ire by insisting that veterans languished in asylums but also attracted popular support by providing dignified, non-institutional care for mentally wounded men.

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    The Psychological Costs Of War: Military Combat And Mental

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    Stigma Of Psychiatric Problems

    One important factor was the stigma that was associated with psychiatric symptoms. The shame of suffering from a mental illness and the taunt of having nothing to show encouraged soldiers without obvious wounds to express their trauma through physical symptoms. For doctors, who were well aware of the stigma of a mental diagnosis and its damaging effect on a mans self-respect, it became usual practice to attach to traumatised soldiers the biological label of shell shock.

    At the beginning of the last century, eminent French psychologist and psychotherapist Pierre Janet had already asked:

    How is it that with one person the hysteria bears on the arm, with another on the stomach, and that, with a third, it only reaches a system of ideas?

    This is still a relevant clinical question, not just in relation to combat stress, but for the huge field of so called medically unexplained symptoms. And historical research is likely to play a major role in future efforts to understand the mechanisms behind psychosomatic illness and reactions to adversity.

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    Federal Assistance After Wwii

    After the completion of WWII, there was a great need for mental health services for combat veterans. Many of them suffered from war-related neuroses and required treatment. As a result, there was pressure on the federal government to establish mental health resources to address their needs. This emphasis on mental health fueled the creation and solidification of resources that were essential to the rise of psychology after WWII.

    The Forgotten Female Shell

    WWI and America’s First PTSD Research

    Studies about the mental-health impact of the war have focused almost exclusively on men, to the detriment of the women who suffered on the front lines and the home front.

    In late 1917, a British woman named Elizabeth Huntley her own daughter. When the case went to trial, her friends and family testified that she had been a “jolly-hearted woman”that is, “until the air raids.” Her sister told the judge that the raids in London caused Elizabeth to shake and have delusions, and that she had become depressed. Her doctor had tried to get her out of London and away from her children, because during the raids they “screamed” and “worried her,” but he was too late. She had a nervous breakdown during a raid, and murdered her child. They called it “air raid shock.”

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