Artillery: April 29, 2004


Israel medical researchers looking for better ways to treat extreme depression have noted that a new treatment (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, which uses powerful magnets to stimulate certain parts of the brain), also works to reduce combat fatigue suffered by soldiers. This has proved to be a more effective, and less painful, than the traditional shock therapy. 

Combat fatigue, which is currently called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first noted after the American Civil War. That war, one of the first to expose large numbers of troops to extended periods of combat stress, had the stress angle brought to the public attention because of the appearance of newly invented mass media (cheap newspapers printed on highly efficient steam powered presses). The symptoms, as reported in the press a century and a half ago, have not changed. At the time, affected veterans were diagnosed as suffering from Irritable Heart or Nostalgia. Symptoms noted included fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations, headache, excessive sweating, dizziness, disturbed sleep, fainting and flashbacks to traumatic combat situations. In World War I, the condition was called Shell Shock, and the symptoms were the same, although there was more attention paid to vets who jumped and got very nervous when they heard loud noises. In World War II and Korea the condition was called Combat Stress Reaction. Same symptoms. After Vietnam, the term Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome became popular, until it evolved into PTSD. 

Israel first noted the condition after the 1982 combat operations in Lebanon, which went on longer than previous wars, and used a larger number of older reserve troops. The older soldiers, especially reservists, tended to be more prone to coming down with PTSD. This was probably due to the fact the full time soldiers are constantly conditioned to deal with stress. While this is often referred, often derisively, as military discipline, it has been known for thousands of years that such practices reduce stress and panic during combat. Apparently it reduces the chances of coming down with PTSD as well. 

After the 1991 Gulf War, and today as well, a new variation has become popular, one that puts more emphasis on non-mental diseases. This situation was first noted during World War II, when soldiers returning from the Pacific battlefields later turned up in Veterans hospitals with unfamiliar physical symptoms. This was later found to be the result of exposure to diseases that doctors in temperate zone countries were unfamiliar with. This was the case with todays veterans who served in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The Department of Defense knew as long ago as the 1970s (spurred by Vietnam experience) that there were probably a number of unknown diseases lurking about in the Middle East. Doctors who treated expatriates working in the Persian Gulf had already reported some of these conditions, especially among non-natives who spent a lot of time out in the uninhabited (except by exotic bacteria and viruses) areas. It is now known that stress, like the stress of being in a combat zone, can reduce the effectiveness of a persons immune system and make them more susceptible to all manner of unfamiliar diseases. 

The Israeli Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy may help the mental aftereffects of combat, but the physical diseases will continue to be a problem.




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