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March 19, 2007

In the News

This morning’s SF Chronicle (really a Hearst newspaper) had three stories above the fold. The two on the right were arranged under a single headline, Protestors for Peace,” which actually described only one of them. The other, submitted from Iraq by a Chronicle correspondent, dealt with the increasing number of Iraqis exhibiting emotional symptoms and the scarcity of facilities for their treatment.

To which my response was, “better late than never.”

Our modern recognition of emotional syndromes related to the trauma of war began with the ‘Shell Shock’ of World War One. Twenty-odd years later, during World War Two and Korea, that term was replaced with the more clinical ‘Battle Fatique,’ but it wasn’t until well after cessation of hostilities in Viet Nam that ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder' (PTSD) found its way into both the DSM and popular speech.
I hasten to interject that, although I have profound disagreements with the DSM as a ‘disease’ taxonomy, I have no problem with the concept of anxiety related syndromes and would count PTSD as one which is both unequivocal and easily defined. While the responsible traumatic event may have been any near-death or similarly unsettling experience, can be acute or chronic,  and can take place at any age, my recent clinical experience with a steady stream of self-medicating pot smokers suggests that sentient pre-pubescent children are particularly vulnerable.

That observation becomes especially significant in Iraq, where, as in many ‘developing’ nations, a disproportionately high percentage of the population is under the age of sixteen. Four years after starting an unnecessary war there, we are finally beginning to look at the emotional toll imposed by ‘deployment’ and ‘redeployment’ on American military families, but have been remarkably slow to realize that, for Iraqis, the carnage has become part of everyday life.

I would also suggest that other abrupt changes in the status quo of any society, whether wars, the availability of new drugs, or the imposition of new policies, will have unintended consequences, which, if we refuse to study them or to even recognize their existence; can become both greatly compounded over time and almost impossible to undo.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 19, 2007 04:03 PM