Psychological Effects of Combat



Movies make the business of struggling with and war effortless and easy. They make us assume that soldiers are some sort of killing machines. The reasons for killing may be many; because they are told, if they don't kill they'll die, the opponent is a threat to enduring peace and so on. The movies make us assume that a soldier fires going to and kill each other. While this supports some truth, a deeper research is required to understand the mindset behind the actions of these struggling with men.

Talking about the mindset of a struggling man is similar to virgins discussing sex. Times can be put in talking about it and the mechanics included can be totally realized. However, you cannot be sure that the man who recognized the technicians behind the mindset will behave as expected, when he is confronted with a battle situation.

That is basically because when bullets and shells start zipping past, the emotions and Adrenaline start jogging high and that will affect how a struggling with man sees things in the battlefield. During warlike situations, every soldier sees things different from another soldier.


The aim of this newspaper is to comprehend the psychology of the fighting with each other man, the factors influencing his prefer to get rid of on the battlefield and how it affects his brain and tendencies. The paper also intends to hide the psychiatric ramifications of combat on the soldier and provide possible solutions.


Behaviour During Combat

When it comes to combat situations, behavior of the animal kinds can be labeled into four stages, Posture, Fight, Trip or Submit. Also, animals do not generally destroy others with their kinds, except with very few exceptions. In this regard, human beings are like pets in our behavior, especially in a combat situation.

When animals fight, they do not directly reach a physical battle. The start posturing to intimidate the foe.

Humans are not much different. Rifles, artillery guns and tanks provide perfect tools for posturing. They can be dangerous, these are loud. Shells and bullets zooming past over head can be terrifying any man on the planet. The shooter gets a sense of vitality and the act provides a primal release to him. Posturing also form part of combat tactics.

It is said that in Vietnam Warfare, only 1 out of 52000 photos fired have scored a hit[1]. Were the People in america that bad at shooting? No, in fact these were very superior in posturing. However, when the time came to purpose at the VietCong, the Yankee preferred to posture, rather than to destroy.

This will not mean the complete aim is not to destroy, but to scare the adversary by posturing. You will see a few whose sole target is to improve the use of body hand bags by the other side, whatever maybe their desire. They are like that one percent of fighter pilots who accounted for forty percent of planes taken down in World Battle II.

In warfare, a soldier's tendencies is also affected by the fact that whether he has to kill anyone. One is more willing to handle risks if he doesn't have to destroy anyone. Best example in this respect are the medical corps people.

Now, why don't we understand what happens when the foe decides to run away. The best way to describe it is by drawing a corollary again with the pet world. What happens when you make an effort to run away from a dog? It will run behind you, get you and bite you. This may even cause your death. Just as, to hightail it from an enemy who is by using an adrenaline rush is like signing your death warrant. This is the reason behind retreating causes suffering higher range of causalities.

The Decision to Kill

This is the hardest decision every struggling with man must take on the battlefield. This decision is influenced by many factors. Every soldier who's shooting may not be wanting to kill his challenger. He might flames on order. Nonetheless it is difficult to ascertain whether he's trying to kill. Just to illustrate being 1:52000 rounds proportion which I discussed in the Vietnam Conflict.

A majority of men and women will be reluctant before killing another individual, unlike what's portrayed in the films. They will undertake it only when they can be pressed to the place and this influences them psychologically in a major way.

The Distance. A major factor which impacts your choice whether to wipe out is the distance between a soldier and his foe. The distance can be broadly classified into two physical distance and mental distance.

Emotional Distance. Emotional distance has nothing to do with the physical distance between a soldier and his adversary. He can destroy his challenger at closer ranges provided he is able to achieve some sort of emotional distance from the opponent.

Moral Distance. Moral distance considers that the enemy is wrong in his morals and ethics.

Social Distance. A preventing man uses public distance to kill an opponent he considers socially inferior to him.

Mechanical distance. Mechanical distance is necessary when the foe is not seen by one's own eyes. He is seen though a mechanised medium. Maybe it's a screen, a display or a opportunity. Therefore the stress of seeing the mark as a real human is prevented.

The presence of the officer does miracles to a soldier's determination to destroy an enemy. Other factors which add will be the want of revenge, hatred or mortal fear. However, studies show that the main factor which propels a soldier to throw and get rid of his enemy is the feeling that if he doesn't destroy, he will let down his comrades.


Psychiatric Casualties

It has shown that the much longer a soldier is exposed to combat situations, the more are the chances that he'll turn into a psychiatric casualty. Now, what is a psychiatric casualty? He can be explained as any militarily inadequate soldier in whom the predominant factors producing ineffectiveness are of mental instead of physical or neuropsychiatric origin.

How long will it take for an average soldier to become a psychiatric casualty? Roy Swank and Walter Marchand, both US Army doctors conducted a study[2] during world war II and arrived with a result that 98% of all surviving soldiers will become psychatirc casualties after sixty days and nights of continuous combat. The remaining 2% were already identified with having ambitious psychopath tendencies. So to place it in lighter vein, a combat unit goes completely crazy by the end of sixty times.

Manifestations of Psychiatric Casualties

The ramifications of being a psychiatric casualty can be of assorted forms. It could also have an impact on different individuals at different levels. This in no way means that the mental stability of an individual is lost and he is no more capable of fighting. Generally a screen of proper leftovers away from the frontline will help in alleviating battle stress.

Fatigue. The first of all manifestation of fight stress from an extended battle is Tiredness. It is nothing but the soldier being tired and is also in no feeling to do anything.

Confusional Condition. When the fatigue is not examined with time, a psychiatric casualty can reach Confusional Express. In simple terms, one is 'lost'.

Ganser Syndrome. If a soldier will not put on Confusional state, he may be influenced by something called Ganser syndrome[3]. In this particular, he starts keeping away from fear by substituting it with humour.

Conversion Hysteria. A severe form of Confusional condition is called Conversion Hysteria. It could happen while the fight is own or it could surface years later. A psychiatric casualty experiencing Conversion Hysteria looses touch with certainty. He cannot identify potential dangers. He becomes insensitive to his own security. He might just wander into minefields or adversary fire.

Anxiety Disorders

Continuous state of anxiety during combat creates havoc in a soldier's rest. He seems that he is always tired regardless of the quantity of rest or sleeping he gets. He begins getting nightmares and may also be obsessed with death. He concerns his capacity and starts suspecting that he is coward and could fail his colleagues. The symptoms of increased panic state governments are breathlessness, blurred eyesight, tremors, short-term paralysis and fainting.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is another impact that can be caused by anxiety. A soldiers blood pressure may increase radically even years after his battle experience triggering profuse perspiration and nervousness.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD). Anxiety can also cause OCD. The behavioural pattern of soldiers with OCD are similar to that of those suffering from Alteration Hysteria. The major difference is that he is alert to his environment and activities.

Character Disorders. Nervousness can also cause Identity Disorders in a soldier. A soldier becomes obsessed with particular activities or objects. This may bring about him being paranoid about his personal basic safety.


What are the possible solutions to these issues? First and foremost will be proper training and indoctrination. It will be needs to be sufficient to ensure it if not prevents, at least delays the starting point of combat stress.

The next thing ought to be to identify potential psychiatric casualties as early as possible. Existence of trained advisors and psychiatrists are also necessary to ensure that these potential cases do not become full blown psychiatric casualties.

Units need to be rotated at the front on a regular basis. A 'crazy' product by the end of sixty days and nights of combat obligation isn't only harmful to themselves, they are really dangerous to the nation too.

The final solution remains that of harm control. A psychiatric casualty should be addressed clinically. There should be counsellers at the rear to care for potential conditions.


The aim was not to question the capability or motivation of soldiers. It had been to bring to light that each armed push today is treading on thin ice so far as the well being of the troops can be involved. Psychiatric casualties may take out a good part of any make, maybe more than exactly what will fall victim to foe bullets. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention the psychology of any preventing man, to understand what drives him, what retains him back again and how many other than mortal wound will need him from the equation in a battlefield.


1. Grossman, Dave "On Getting rid of: The Psychological Cost of Understanding how to Kill in Battle and World". New York; Backbay Books, 1996.

2. Bray, Charles W. "Psychology and Military services Proficiency". New Jersey; Princeton College or university Press, 1969.

3. Watson, Peter "Warfare on your brain". London; Hutchinson and Company (Web publishers) Ltd, 1978.

[1] Collins, Randall "Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory" Princeton University Press, 2008, pp. 58

[2] Swank, Roy L. , and Marchand, Walter E. "Combat Neuroses: Development of Battle Exhaustion, ' Archives of. Neurology and Psychiatry, North american Medical Connection, Chicago, IL, USA. vol. 55, 1946, pp. 236-247.

[3] http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/pubmed/20703401 seen on 02 Aug 13

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