This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

The Daily Need

Study suggests soldiers’ guilt is large driver of PTSD cases

According to USA Today, an ongoing study of 2,600 Marines suggests that feelings of guilt regarding certain aspects of their wartime deployment could be a leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The newspaper writes:

The conflicts that servicemembers feel may include “survivor’s guilt,” from living through an attack in which other servicemembers died, and witnessing or participating in the unintentional killing of women or children, researchers involved in the study say.

“How do they come to terms with that? They have to forgive themselves for pulling the trigger,” says retired Navy captain Bill Nash, a psychiatrist and study co-author.

The paper goes on to report that the notion that feelings of guilt may in fact be a causal factor in PTSD cases is relatively new in psychiatry. The article states that the American Psychiatric Association is now starting to consider “new diagnostic criteria that would include feelings of shame and guilt.”

This study would seem to bolster the argument made by documentary filmmaker and writer Sebastian Junger, who on a recent episode of Need to Know proposed that the U.S. create a memorial commemorating the innocent civilians killed in America’s wars.  Junger argued the memorial would be valuable both as a way to acknowledge what he calls “the central tragedy of war,” but also to help assuage the deep remorse that he says many American soldiers bring home with them from combat.

Describing his memorial to us, Junger said:

It would simply be an acknowledgement that some wars have to be fought — there are just wars — and even in those civilians get killed. People who should not die get killed.  And the soldiers know this, and they come back with this terrible knowledge, and they have no place to go to do whatever it might be, where they can make peace with things they might regret.

You can hear Junger describe his idea here:

  • thumb
    The admission arms race
    From ProPublica, an in-depth look at the ways in which colleges can pump up their stats.
  • thumb
    Home-grown terrorism
    The story of the Boston bombers is still unfolding at high speed, but counterterror officials believe the brothers were Islamic extremists.
  • thumb
    Boston reading guide
    Need to play catch up? Here's a full list of resources for more on what's going on in Boston.


  • Stupid Man IQ Over 180

    Of course it is. Most Americans are Christians. The bible say’s that You Can Not Kill or you go to hell.  I mean you take young men who have been raised this way since birth and re program their minds to think and act otherwise, To do and see things that area in the back of there minds against God. Use your small brains.
    After the killing you have young people who are broken.
    So get off your fat asses and admit what you have done and or let be done and FIX THEM.  You need to fix what you break. You own it then. Now I am a stupid savant with an IQ over 180 so what do I know.

  • Oakfeathers

    Even not being a religious person, the guilt after Vietnam ate my husband up. For years he could not put it behind him and still today once in a while he has to work hard to overcome the guilt. 
    This is not a religious issue, it is about the idea of acting on orders to kill someone you do not know, no matter what the reason, is not a normal thing to do. It does not matter if they are the other military, terrorist or civilian, you take another life. Killing for food, in defense of oneself, or defense of family is one thing, but to be told to kill people accused of doing something you did not witness is not natural. The military tries to brainwash the warrior to be angry, then releases them back into society and expects them to stop being angry and ready to fight at all times is insanity. 
    My husband was a POW for months, he watched those who also were captured die around him, and yet once he was rescued and healed, he could not go back and kill the “enemy”. He could not go hunting after he came home, something he did all the time before he went. It meant a large portion of our food supply needed to be purchased. He worked, and worked hard, always keeping busy to not have to sleep because the dreams were so vivid and horrible.
    What helped him was talking to other veterans about the issues they had all faced in a veteran to veteran discussion group. No psychiatrist or medications, no drinking or any substance use to mask the feelings. They cried together, they worked through what they all had experienced. He then could sleep through the night, he could reconnect with family that he had left behind because he couldn’t face them after doing the things he had done. I saw many other Vietnam vets go through the same things, many marriages, disassociating themselves from their children and feeling they were being punished because their children had weird diseases and were dying from what now is known to have been caused by agent orange. But at the time it just was adding to their own guilt. 
    It is time to find ways to resolve conflicts without wars.

  • Barbara Flatlander

    PTSD has recently been discussed as common for those that have been abused sexually as children.  Not knew information but for those that are adults that deal with the memories and ordeal we find that it is often our families that are destroyed or harmed because of our ordeal.  That is where guilt, depression, loss, helplessness, and pain comes to the adult that was the innocent child.  Trauma and experience beyond what we are prepared to somehow integrate into the person we think we are, the person we have defined ourselves to be — that is the beginning of events the spiral of PTSD. We are not prepared for some of what we must live to be part of.

  • A River Runs Thru It

    All I know is you are angry and a little righteous….which is cool. We all need to find ways to disassociate from things until we can come to terms with our own feelings. And I, like you, used judgement, anger and condescending comments like a pro. But I am tired …because no matter how many times I do this…it doesnt make the guilt I feel go away. And you cant beat me up any worse than I have done to myself…so go for it if you need some more separation…I get it Stupid Man…I really do.

  • A River Runs Thru It

    See above…stupid me replied in the wrong spot…god, it feels SO good to laugh at doing something stupid…
    I am convinced guilt is our way of holding on to something until we are ready to let it go and feel all the pain and sadness and grief that comes with that…