Weak after war – Combat fatigue

  • By Dr. Neha Agrawal

Wars bring casualties without fail. What is gained can always be questioned, but what is lost can be well seen all around. The horror that pervades the eyes of all those are left behind, the nightmares, the grieving and the loss of dear ones – it is hard to move on, impossible to let go.

Ever wondered, once the war is over, what happens to the brave ones who kept fighting? Many of them go through a severe stress situation, called the ‘Combat Fatigue’. Some also use the term – Combat Stress Reaction.

It is a reaction noted in the soldiers, observed by the medical professionals who have been continually offering services and aid to those hurt from war injuries. It is an acute condition, i.e., it is relatively sudden in onset, doesn’t stay for long and is temporary.

A picture of combat fatigue

As the name suggests – it is about ‘fatigue’. Those affected complain of tiredness, they are slow in reacting, are unable to make decisions, cannot plan properly and are disconnected from the surrounding environment. Listlessness and immense exhaustion comes over. They find is difficult to concentrate on anything, and even routine activities may seem like a challenge.

These are about the fatigue. There are other symptoms presented by a victim of combat fatigue – aches and pains in the head, back, general body ache. They don’t feel hungry but do feel nauseous and vomit often. Sweating, trembling, palpitations are common. There are a lot of sleep difficulties – restlessness, inability to go to sleep at all (insomnia) or oversleeping, fearful dreams.

Other complaints may be those of feeling confused, out of control, being anxious and depression. Some may even attempt suicides.

Handling the situation

Wars can be tough. The gory picture continues to haunt for a long time. It is normal to feel shaken from within and be terrorized by the sad outcomes. To be able to maintain an alert state of mind for hours and hours during war is not an ordinary task. It is heavily demanding and consuming. Not just the mental strength, the physical strength is also tested in such circumstances. The body needs to go on working, moving and running without a break, without any respite, sometimes without food and water. These brave ones deal with pools of blood, heart-wrenching cries of pain, stench and chaos, and the terrible game of hope versus hopelessness. It uplifts the spirit to be able to save a life, but it destroys the morale to lose one.

Anyone would be in a state of complete collapse after such an experience.

Treatments are specifically designed by the military organizations to tackle this situation. They follow a definite protocol and make sure adequate care is given to those affected.

Here, counseling and psychotherapy is of great importance. Fortunately, the affection is that of the mind – with gentle and appropriate therapy, it goes away as it had come.