As the war in Lebanon intensifies, trauma experts countrywide are preparing themselves for a greater number of cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), particularly from those who served in Lebanon during Israel's 18 years there.
"People who might have recovered from the stresses of the first Lebanon war are finding that their bad memories are being triggered by what is happening now," Prof. Danny Brom, head of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Tuesday. "It is a real concern for those who work in the trauma world, everyone who practices clinical work is preparing for it."
Furthermore, with names such as Bint Jbail, Litani River and Tyre plastered across the media, some individuals might be at risk from developing delayed onset PTSD. "People who did not develop symptoms serious enough to require help the first time around may get tipped over the edge now," Brom said.
"The seeds were there but they are only flowering now," agreed Zehava Solomon, professor of psychiatric epidemiology and social work at Tel Aviv University and the head of the Adler Research Center for Child Welfare and Protection.
Solomon served in the IDF as head of the Research Branch in the Medical Corps from 1981 to 1992. As part of her research, she has been following "combat stress" and reaction to tragedy in soldiers directly affected by the last Lebanon war and prisoners of war from the Yom Kippur War for the past 20 years.
"We have looked at their professional life, their personal life and their general attitude," said Solomon. "We will do another study soon on the effects of this war."
When the IDF reentered Lebanon last month, Solomon said that some of the former soldiers in her study had got back in touch with her.
"Some of them are doing really badly," she said, adding that the current situation could also be traumatic for wives and children of individuals with PTSD.
However, Solomon cautioned that the phenomenon should not be oversimplified. She said that not all soldiers who once served in Lebanon would become retraumatized as the army pushes further in to its territory.
"For some individuals reexposure will bring to the surface feelings that they have repressed, but those who did not suffer from psychological disorders the first time around are unlikely to suffer this time either," she said.
She also said that for many repeat exposure to stressful environments can even act as an immunizing force.
She added: "The majority of the population is suffering from some symptoms of PTSD, but that is how we prepare adequate coping mechanisms for such situations."
"Even if this war lets up soon, it will be a long time before we get out of it in terms of psychology and psychotherapy treatment," Brom said.
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