Combat and the possibility of posttraumatic growth
The psychological impact of war has been observed across time and culture. In the aftermath of wars throughout history, societies have experienced devastating post-war mental health and readjustment problems (Wells et al., 2011). The consequences of modern-day warfare have become amplified; specifically, with military operations in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom. The increase in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other co-morbid mental health disorders among our nation's veterans has sparked the development of research in both treatment and prevention. As the demands of treatment have increased, there has been a shift towards a preventative mindset, focused on discovering what makes an individual resilient in the face of trauma and capable of growth post-trauma: posttraumatic growth (PTG). Understanding post-combat functioning in OIF and OEF veterans is vital, as it guides the development of interventions to enhance resilience and support, as well as promote successful re-integration into civilian life (Pietrzak et al., 2010). Concepts of mental health training which endeavor towards resilience and PTG do not transfer to these high-risk occupational contexts without being tailored to military culture. This qualitative, multiple case study, aims to unearth a rich description of the lived experiences of three combat arms veterans. Focusing on the phenomenon of PTG, this study clarifies resilience factors in combat, PTG from combat, and insight into time-course development. Ultimately, the goal of this work is to illustrate that combat trauma does not necessarily lead to a damaged life; there is hope for personal change and growth.
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