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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Healing a Wounded Sense of Morality

Many veterans are suffering from a condition similar to, but distinct from, PTSD: moral injury, in which the ethical transgressions of war can leave service members traumatized.

By Maggie Puniewska
The Atlantic
Originally published July 3, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

Identifying moral injury can be tricky for two reasons: First, it’s easily mistaken for PTSD, which shares many of the same symptoms. And second, because veterans may feel too ashamed to talk about their moral infractions, therapists might not even know to look for the signs of moral injury at all, says Joseph Currier, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Alabama. To help therapists better understand how to diagnose the condition, he and several colleagues have developed a 20-item questionnaire that screens patients for moral injury, asking patients to rate their agreement with statements like “I did things in war that betrayed my personal values” and “I made mistakes in the war zone that led to injury and death.”


But healing isn’t just confined to the individual. Emotions that guide morality, Currier explains, are rooted in social relationships:  “The function of guilt is to reconcile a potentially damaged social bond, whereas with shame, the reaction is to withdraw so the social group can preserve its identity,” he says.   For many veterans, therefore, recovery from moral injury depends in part on the civilian communities to which they return. “A part of feeling betrayed or distrusted or guilty by the practices of war is feeling alienated. It’s feeling like you can’t share your experiences because people will judge you or won’t understand,” Sherman says.

The entire article is here.

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