Shell Shock is a term used in the military to refer to battle fatigue or a kind of combat neurosis caused by the stressful situation in war. The victim may feel disconnected form his surroundings and may feel less efficient. There is a loss of memory, sight etc due to stress and strain produced by being part of combat for long periods. The other symptoms of shell shock include anxiety, hysteria, muscle contractions, paralysis, nightmares, sleep disturbances, heart palpitations, dizziness and depression. However the symptoms of shell shock are short-term and easily treatable.
It was the medical officer, Charles Myers who first used the term Shell Shock in 1917 to describe the condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also known as “war neurosis”. Shell Shock may have originated due to the prolonged exposure to exploding shells in combat. But, it has been later found that soldiers suffering form shell shock were not necessarily those engaged in active war on the front lines. In many instances, officers were often victims of shell shock as they had to control their emotions in order to project the image of an ideal leader to their troops. In fact the officers were four times more prone to Shell Shock than the ordinary soldiers.
Shell Shock is a neurotic disorder caused by anxiety involved in combat. A person suffering form this disorder is hypersensitive to even slight movements, noises and light and generally overreacts to such stimuli by involuntary jerks and reactions. They get easily irritated and may react violently to such a situation. Another common characteristic is lack of sleep as the person is constantly plagued by nightmares and dreams relating to the horrors of warfare which disturb his sleep.
It is not that everyone involved in warfare become victims of shell shock. Appropriate training to a large extent mitigates the effects of warfare. But there are some who may be more susceptible to this neurotic disorder owing to physical and hereditary factors. However, the main cause of shell shock condition is due to stress and exertion produced by physical hardship. In addition, there is a lot of emotional stress caused by the battle environment, besides the loss of precious lives, of leaders and comrades in combat.
Shell Shock victims can be treated by withdrawing them from the front lines till their condition improves. They should preferably be allowed to operate from their units and ensure they get adequate rest. The importance of good food and diet cannot be underestimated to tackle the condition of Shell Shock victims. Other useful practices include regular rotation of troops and providing basic amenities for troops posted in the war zones. Further, troops should be given leaves in rotation, to be away from the battle scene so that they can have proper rest and relaxation. The wounded victims should be provided with prompt medical facilities besides providing psychiatric counseling to the troops.