Stress reactions with soldiers: from the fight against malingerers and psychopaths to the installation of professional treatment centres

Oswald Klingler


Since ancient times emotional stress consequences after combat or war incidents have been reported. Often an open and rational dealing with them has been heavily hampered because of war interests – especially in the course of the great war catastrophes of the 20th century. Many soldiers were unable to go on fighting because of psychic reasons, and this was fought against in a total war as compromising the war objectives. Correspondingly, often the possibility of mental war damages was gainsaid and/or the persons affected were considerably pressurized. They were depicted as against malingerers and psychopaths, and their medical treatment was supposed to force them back to the frontline. Only lingeringly a differentiated point of view became possible, which was the case in the USA very soon after the Vietnam War. There, in respect of the numerous and heavy problems which could be detected with homecoming soldiers, intensive research of the mental stress reactions began. This research has verified consistent occurrence of these consequences also in a context where no simulation can be of any help. Another push of research was kicked off by acknowledging the post-traumatic stress syndrome as a disease caused by stress. This, in turn, led to the development of efficient treatment methods. Today, it is standard in all modern armed forces to regard mental afterdamages as injuries suffered in service, so that specific facilities for medical treatment can be provided within an institution.