Pathways Between Combat Stress and Physical Health Among Portuguese War Veterans

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Abstract

In this study, I explored the experience of both physical and psychological chronic illnesses among a sample of Portuguese war veterans. Twenty suffered from chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; unrecovered) and 20 had remission from PTSD (recovered), and all participants suffered from a chronic physician-diagnosed medical disorder. Two semistructured interviews were conducted. Analysis of the interviews was conducted using the Thematic and Categorical Analysis. Unrecovered participants reported higher moral injury, discrepancy between pre- and postwar identity, medication side effects, and lower repertoire of coping strategies, and verbalized that treatment care plan triggers posttraumatic symptoms. Recovered participants reported stronger moral repair, sense of continuity between pre- and postwar identity, and wider repertoire of coping strategies, well-being. Veterans’ adjustment to chronic physician-diagnosed medical disorders is related to the accommodation of war traumatic experiences within existing self-schemas to restore a sense of continuity between veterans’ pre- and postwar identity.

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