Author(s): Jones E
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Abstract Almost every major war in the last century involving western nations has seen combatants diagnosed with a form of post-combat disorder. Some took a psychological form (exhaustion, combat fatigue, combat stress reaction and post-traumatic stress disorder), while others were characterized by medically unexplained symptoms (soldier's heart, effort syndrome, shell shock, non-ulcer dyspepsia, effects of Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome). Although many of these disorders have common symptoms, the explanations attached to them showed considerable diversity often reflected in the labels themselves. These causal hypotheses ranged from the effects of climate, compressive forces released by shell explosions, side effects of vaccinations, changes in diet, toxic effects of organophosphates, oil-well fires or depleted-uranium munitions. Military history suggests that these disorders, which coexisted in the civilian population, reflected popular health fears and emerged in the gaps left by the advance of medical science. While the current Iraq conflict has yet to produce a syndrome typified by medically unexplained symptoms, it is unlikely that we have seen the last of post-combat disorders as past experience suggests that they have the capacity to catch both military planners and doctors by surprise.
This article was published in Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense