An introduction to the war of nerves soldiers and psychiatrists

These included electric shocks and triggering suspended animation. Some men succumbed to nervous collapse after hostilities had ceased; some appeared to get better and then suffered from relapses.

Emotional Survival in the Great War, Manchester In Medical Officers were instructed to label possibly traumatised men as NYDN Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous but throughout the war, and afterwards, men continued to be described as "shell-shocked" and a wide range of other terms were used too: An unexpectedly high number of soldiers returned from the battlefields seriously ill, they became blind or deaf, twitched, shook or became paralysed.

He attributed neurasthenia to the nerve damage caused by the strain of modern, highly competitive, urban life. The Anatomy of Madness. Treating psychiatric injury like physical injury—evacuating those afflicted out of harms way and safely to the rear, did not work.

Over the next months, though, with the employment of false reports and rumours, the stylisation of the striking workers as violent perpetrators was achieved, against whom one should and could take action with all means.

A brief and laconic description of the mile-long traffic jams of ambulances on their way from the front I found almost unbearably affecting.

A War of Nerves

Military psychiatrists were firmly of the belief that war neurotics were malingerers, degenerates or frauds and that awarding them a pension would only encourage their symptoms. This, however, was still an entirely different burden than that of the soldiers, who were directly confronted by the new dimension of violence and its consequences.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Myers anthropologist and consulting psychologist to the British Expeditionary Force first publicly used the term "shell shock" in The Lancet in February There were over 80, recorded cases amongst the British armies on the western front ; estimates amongst German troops range fromand the number of French troops affected was similar or possibly higher.

However, the majority did not receive support apart from propaganda. The Great War and German Memory. The officer in charge called for the medical officer, Lieutenant George Kirkwoodwho later issued a certificate testifying to collective mental breakdown amongst the men: To indicate potential directions for future research, the plenum collated a catalogue of research desiderata.

They did not always succeed but men refused to be stigmatised by a mental war wound: The Southborough committee did not manage to allay concerns about the mental health of servicemen who had been executed and the issue resurfaced at the end of the 20th century when their families demanded an official pardon.

Doctors told him in writing that it would restore his speech and hearing. Mark Jones Dublin addressed the escalation of violence and the role of word-of-mouth propaganda. In particular, the mobilisation and rationalisation of nerves was a significant component. Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War, Princeton et al.

In addition, lunatic asylums were popularly known as pauper lunatic asylums because they were traditionally populated by those unable to afford a private clinic. Consequently, afflicted officers and soldiers were quick to adopt this term, and psychiatrists were able to make clear that professional and scientifically substantiated medical treatment was badly needed.

Like the ordinary soldiers, officers too were directly confronted by the consequences of new types of weapons, their nerves too were damaged.War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century / Edition 1 "Ben Shephard's study of how war wounds men's minds, and of medicine's efforts to heal the damage done, is based on years of dedicated $ On the dust cover of A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century, there is an endorsement from British military historian/journalist John Keegan, which states, "Ben.

A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass., Cambridge, Mass., Offers a wide-ranging survey of psychiatric responses to war trauma in the twentieth century, also a good starting point for a historical account of war neuroses in World War II.

A War of Nerves I’ve just started reading Ben Shephard’s stunning book A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists that tracks the history of military psychiatry through the 20th century. Even if you’re not interested in the military per se, the wars of the last years have been incredibly important in shaping our whole understanding.


Shephard is certain that psychiatrists can harm, and remains to be convinced they can do much good. Shephard’s narrative drive never falters, and his knowledge of the literature is awesome. His book must be read by anyone with any.

Leading the blind

Below you find the report about the conference "Nerves and War", which was held on October at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin in Germany. Conference Report “Nerves and War Experiences of Psychological Mobilisation and Suffering in Germany ” written by Beate Winzer, M.A., Free University of .

An introduction to the war of nerves soldiers and psychiatrists
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