Mental Health and War – Impact of Terrorism and Armed Conflict

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ilbey Ucar – PhD (Psychology)
Last updated date : February 22, 2023

We have been unfortunate enough to witness or know of many events that occur due to the power-hunger of man. It is a popular and true fact that those who suffer the most from these games are innocent civilians who only ever wanted to live in peace with everyone. When we take the damage caused by wars into account, we usually start with the buildings collapsed, government finance situation, and fatalities. Sadly, the unseen and unheard psychological impact caused by war to everyone involved in it is often overlooked. Research shows that most of those who have experienced war first-hand suffer from various mental issues they don’t talk about because such difficulties are normalized among each other. However, mental health and war is still a not normalized topic that is outspoken about.

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Chapter 1:

What Is Relationship Between Mental Health and War?

A military officer is thinking of his soldiers engaging in a battle in the night

It is evident by research and expert opinion that those who are affected by war scenes are likely to be mentally scarred for the rest of their lives. The physical challenges of war include and are not limited to sexual assault, beatings, being shot, battle scars as a soldier or a civilian, bruises, etc. little is it talked about of the mental agony all of these leave behind on different scales. Watching mass massacres of each other’s loved ones and not knowing when a bomb would fall on their head. Even those who managed to survive carry around the burden of remembering their neighbour’s or friend’s death.

I could spend hours telling you about the suffering the war has brought, but I’d only make myself more miserable. All we can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end. Jews and Christians alike are waiting, the whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank states the bitter truth every survivor has experienced. The uncertainty and the anxiety of a possible attack or a raid have kept these victims tormented for a very long time. While some survive, they still get the news of many that did not. The helplessness and the never-ending sorrow are enough to cripple one stable mentality.

Chapter 2:

Why Is Mental Health and War Important?

After going through these experiences, one does not come out without a scar. Even while the danger is done for, survivors claim to experience nightmares and flashbacks. They experience insomnia and are likely to be spooked by harmless noises, even as normal as breaking glass. Civilians and military personnel claim to suffer from survivor’s guilt, and can be extremely sensitive to helicopter sounds, gunshot sounds in video games, violence, etc. However, this here is only a fraction of the entire damage that happens.

Being the victim of war completely puts a halt to a person’s normal life. Victims are not only helpless civilians. It is also the soldiers who are in pain in different ways. Thus, the way each aspect impacts individuals are different.

Chapter 3:

Ways the War Impacts Mental Health

Below are a few links between mental health and war.

Fatalities and the Fear of Death

A soldier stressing with the thoughts of the grim reaper and death and distraction in a war

Try imagining almost all your friends in a bombing. Then, you are waiting for a bomb to be dropped on you. All while praying, looking for signs and any possible ways to avoid the risk. Now, imagine that same terror, anxiety, and helplessness repeated over and over again for years, with no escape. Survivors claim to feel secondhand terror and pain for those who lost their lives too. The thoughts of losing all your loved ones the way they did and not having any control over that make people lose hope in all they believe. They wait for a miracle every day, and not receiving one devastates them every day.

We’ve been told of children searching forlornly in the smoldering ruins for their dead parents. It still makes me shiver to think of the dull, distant drone that signified the approaching destruction.

Anne Frank

Famine and Other Shortages of Essential Items
Parties of war aim to make the enemy weaker. During many wars, civilians are likely to suffer due to starvation, no access to clean water, infrastructure issues amidst other catastrophes. Famine and sanitary problems are very normal issues when there is a war. Survivors recall tough times due to starvation and not having the basic needs necessary to spend a humanly tolerable life. In other words, victims are helplessly waiting for a bomb to drop on them. That is while suffering due to other issues while they are alive.

Most of the terrifying impact of war is about the helplessness innocent civilians face during a war. They haven’t done anything to earn the suffering they go through. However, there is nothing they can do to stop it either. They are simply waiting for it to stop and waiting for it to be all over when it will be. That is a day nobody knows. With the uncertainty of their safety, of the next meal they take, the safety of the loved ones, and incoming fatalities with every chopper that passes by, civilians trapped in war are extremely helpless. The men who hold the power to put an end to the carnage do not hear their prayers. Thus, they may easily die on the same ground that they believe they were safe in.

Chapter 4:

Impact of Mental Health and War on a Person

How exactly do the above experiences change a person? In other words, how do you recognize mental trauma in someone who has been through a war?

  1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  2. Flashbacks and nightmares
  3. Insomnia
  4. Being sensitive to noises
  5. Triggered easily
  6. Unusually clingy or over-protective or being distant
  7. Depressive symptoms
  8. Has certain triggers ( fans looking like choppers )
  9. Does not want to talk about the experiences
  10. Avoids doing things they previously enjoyed

Trauma comes in different ways. Any observation you may make regarding a person that is unlike themselves and seem to last a while may be a sign of trauma caused by war. However, research suggests that those who experienced war are more likely to suffer from psychological impact than not.

Chapter 5:

Impact of War on Mental Health of the Community

Less Resources to Healthcare and Education

Due to the destruction, the victims are unlikely to keep up with the quality of their lives. This includes education, businesses, health care, etc. Enemies attack vital services that disrupt the other parties’ survival. For example, services such as health care are undoubtedly one of the most necessary services during a time of war. In other words, those who are victims of war-related accidents and those who go under other illnesses find it extremely difficult to reach out to effective healthcare.

Culture of Fear
The communities that are residing in a war zone are undoubtedly in a lot of fear. Fear of starvation, fear of death, fear of losing loved ones, fear of being shot or hurt, fear of their country losing the war, and becoming prisoners, among many others. They spent days and nights in uncertainty, being grateful to be alive for another day. It is difficult to sense any happy or positive emotions within a community that is beaten up by war as they are all overtaken by the culture of never-ending fear.

Culture of Mistrust
Wars make people lose trust in each other. As a community that depends on each other during a very stressful time, mistrust can destroy what small hope is there for survival. Distrust can be due to stealing rations from different families, stealing medicine, or ratting others out to enemies, among other ways. Thus, not only do people survive because of each other, but they also try to survive by stepping on each other. This culture of having to do whatever is necessary to escape the brutalities and see another day only makes the situation even more difficult for the victims.

Chapter 6:

Economic Impacts

Jobs are mostly nonexistent during a time of war, except for being a soldier in combat. Thus, the economies go down the drain. After a war, the country has a long recovery ahead. During the war, the country comes to the point of prolonged famine and individuals having to steal or fight for a bit of food.

Chapter 7:

Why Is It Important to Get Help?

Conflicting thoughts of war, bombs and broken relationships

Man-made conflicts make a lot of men suffer, especially those who did not choose to take any part in it. As we already discussed, the consequences can be life-altering. However, there are ways to spend a relatively quality life after the traumatizing experiences at war.

These experiences that victims had no control over or are likely to take over the rest of their lives. This includes the way they think, the people they associate with, how happy they are going to be, how hopeful and thoughtful they are, and how their relationships work, among other things. We understand that the war and everything you had to go through were out of your control. However, there are still decisions you can make to reverse the impact, at least up to a considerable extent.

The severe mental impact caused by war is not only going to get in the way of your quality of life. With time, even after the war is behind you, you may have trouble maintaining healthy relationships, work-life, and other aspects. Thus, you owe it to everyone and yourself to reach out to help.

Chapter 8:

Where Can You Get Help?

Are you looking for ways to help yourself recover from the mental impact caused by war? Here are a few ways you can try.

Local Clinics
Yes, this can be an infrequent occurrence if you are actively experiencing war. However, countries with ongoing wars are starting to realize its impact on civilians and are working towards establishing clinical help. If there is a safe clinic or a medical centre that you know will help you with your difficulties, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. They may help you in ways you did not know possible and will elevate the quality of life by a much higher margin.

Support Groups
Support groups are a great way to connect with people who have been through the same kinds of horror. Victims may be reluctant to share their stories and admit they need help until they meet those just as hurt as them and get better via support groups. Survivors can share their experiences, watch each other get better, be there for each other and have faith in their progress. Especially those who have lost everything they ever had find solace and comfort in support groups with unofficial families lifting each other.

Online Courses and Clinics
If you don’t feel like stepping out, if it is not safe to step out, but if you still need psychological help, there are many online counselling services available. For example, we at Epsychonline are full of learned, experienced, and licensed clinicians, ready to listen to your grievances and find out the best way to help you. We work to make things as easy for you as possible because we understand the trauma that you have been through. These clinicians know exactly how to make life better for you. All you have to do is to take the step to trust them.

"Quick online learning, thanks!" Susan

92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount