Shell Shock

In addition to the physical harm of war, soldiers often underwent psychological damage as well. Soldiers who endured constant bombardment would suffer a condition called “shell shock”, what we would recognize today as post-traumatic stess disorder. This condition was not understood at the time, and symptoms included fatigue, irritability, headaches, and lack of concentration. Some soldiers suffered from mental breakdowns, and could not continue in the front lines. They were reduced to shivering wrecks, and, if they were officers, were sent home to recuperate. Ordinary soldiers, however, were not so lucky. Shell shock was not recognized as an official medical problem, and many high-ranking officials thought that the sufferers were cowards who wanted to get away from the fighting. Some sufferers refused to follow orders; others commited suicide or deserted. Punishment of these men was harsh, and ranged from court-martials to even execution.

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