Shellshock

WWI

The Cause

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Unnatural Terrors

The conditions of WWI were unheard of in warfare before this time. While tactics had not really changed since the Napoleonic era, military technology had rapidly developed. Machine guns, trenches, and tanks were countered with mass charges and artillery bombardments. The war had become about who could afford to send their youth to die for the longest. Casualties were massive and men had vast terrors to deal with. Whether by artillery shell, poison gas, disease, or a foolish order to charge most men were going to die. This constant environment of death wore men down. In the past, men only were at risk during the few hours or days of a battle. During WWI, a man could expect to die whenever he was at the front, a time period of months to years. All this broke the minds of many men.

The Symptoms

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Sanity

The men who returned from WWI were effected deeply. Even those without serious mental issues were mentally and physically altered on their return. Included insomnia, loss of appetite, hallucinations, memory loss, and loss of sensory function. There are stores of soldiers being terrified of even a banging gate, fearing it may be artillery. These men were broken down to the point where they could not function at all.

The Response

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Misunderstanding

Soldiers returning from the battlefield were treated as if there was nothing wrong with them or they were feminized, and so no doctors sought out a cure for their insanity. Doctors used Weir Mitchell's approach to "cure" hysterical women. Shell shock was not considered to be anything serious, but a problem of cowardice that could be cured so that the soldiers could return to the front lines. In general, those who knew people who were inflicted with this shell shock were ashamed by the cowardice of the person. They believed that they were using "shell shock" as an excuse to escape the war, wives were embarrassed by their husbands reluctance to do anything that was normal for another. Many men, who would today receive treatment, were even executed for cowardice, or other crimes. Those who returned were not properly treated, or even recognized, until years after the war, after most veterans had died.

Works cited

Bassiouni, Cherif. "World War I: "The War to End All Wars" and the Birth of a Handicapped International Criminal Justice System." Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 30.3


Kingsbury, Celia Malone. The Peculiar Sanity of War: Hysteria in the Literature of World War I. Lubbox: Texas Tech University Press, 2002. Book.


Hanna, Emma. The Great War on the Small Screen: Representing the First World War in Contemporary Britain. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. Book.


Thomas S. Bundt. "The Painful Lessons of Chemical Warfares: Gas, Mud, and Blood at Ypres." Military Review. Vol. 84. Issue No. 4. (2004). Journal