Continuous Trauma

Born on the Fourth of July is an anti-war book written by Vietnam veteran, Ron Kovic, and outlines why he believes the war in Vietnam was not necessary. At the beginning of the war in Iraq, he extended on his writings from 1974 to discuss the issues that he saw with Iraq. One of the main points he wanted to make in his book was the mental health of service members who return home from war. Kovic discusses the problem of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is often faced by people who return from war, stating, “For some, the agony and suffering, the sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, and awful bouts of insomnia, loneliness, alienation, anger, and rage, will last for decades, if not their whole lives”. Kovic feels strongly that service members returning from war will face many hardships, but mostly hardships in their own minds, reminding them of the things they had seen while at war.

Cathy Caruth, author of Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History, which discusses trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Caruth defines post traumatic stress disorder as, “In its most general definition, trauma describes an overwhelming experience of sudden or catastrophic events in which the response to the event occurs in the often delayed, uncontrolled repetitive appearance of hallucinations and other intrusive phenomena” (11). Caruth also believes that trauma repeats itself in the mind of the person who experienced it so that they are suffering constantly, “[T]he experience of a trauma repeats itself, exactly and unremittingly, through the unknowing acts of the survivor and against his very will” (2).

Caruth would likely agree with Kovic in his statements about military service members and the psychological effects they feel from war. Until war is experienced firsthand, no one can understand the trauma faced by military service members. They have made a promise of duty, honor, and country, and they fulfill their promise wholeheartedly. However, it is necessary for the people they defend to understand their psychological health and offer them help and support, rather than opposition.

The issue of psychological stress and strain is, luckily, becoming more recognized and treatable today than it ever has before. Our society, while not completely understanding, has become interested in the psychological stress people who experience trauma feel. Unfortunately, the world is plagued with trauma and stress. Abuse, rape, murder, and many other traumas have always been present in the world, but as people become more educated with the traumas others face, they too need to become more familiar with the pain and torment faced by the person after the trauma. ptsd_brain1


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