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A war of nerves : soldiers and psychiatrists in the twentieth century
Shephard, Ben
Adult Nonfiction RC550 .S535 2001

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Psychiatrists were brought into war, independent historian and The World at War producer Shephard argues, because they seemed to be able to alleviate its mental traumas in ways both the military and civilian communities considered necessary. With a focus limited essentially to the British and U.S. experiences, with some references to German and French practices (and nothing at all about the Soviet Union), much of Shephard's text presents the personal and professional rivalries among individuals and movements firmly convinced of the validity of their particular patterns of treatment. Of greater significance, however, is Shephard's idea that modern military psychology can be thought of as an argument between "dramatists," concerned with defining and analyzing traumas and symptoms, and "realists," concerned with returning men not only to combat but to life. Since 1945, especially since Vietnam, according to Shephard, the "dramatists" have dominated, resulting in acceptance of a model of post-traumatic stress that assumes perpetual crisis and perpetual therapy. Shephard argues that, in at least one well-documented case, counseling professionals have perpetuated trauma-induced dysfunction by encouraging preoccupation with the trauma. In contrast, Shephard emphasizes the importance of social and cultural, as opposed to medical, responses to war stress: immediate local help, given by those who understand concepts of military group bonding, is crucial, underpinned by leadership and comradeship, dissociation and displacement; so are sex and memories of sex and "above all, singing, humor, and alcohol." Far from being placebos, he says, such defenses help contextualize traumatic situations by reasserting nontraumatic norms, even in combat. It is an argument currently unfashionable, but meriting correspondingly wide circulation and discussion. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Shephard's ambitious study, bolstered by an impressive array of sources diaries, medical case studies, patient interviews, official publications, and physician reports chronicles military psychiatry in the 20th century. It begins at the chronological intersection of modern warfare and psychological medicine during the Great War and examines this troubled marriage through the periods of shell-shock (World War I), combat fatigue (World War II), and post-traumatic stress disorder (Vietnam, Falkland campaign, and the Gulf War). Shephard melds contemporary literary, military, and medical documentation by offering a panorama of war neuroses with conflicting schools of treatment. He suggests qualified answers as to why combatants react differently to stress and discusses the appropriate roles and investments of the military, government, and society in the rehabilitation of those psychologically crippled by war. The author, a former producer of "The World at War" series, concludes that perhaps "military psychiatry is often done best not by psychiatrists but by doctors, officers, or soldiers who understand the principles of group psychology and use the defenses in culture to help people through traumatic situations." This fine study should appeal to all readers. Recommended for psychology, psychiatry, and medical history collections, as well as for large public and academic libraries. John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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