The War Within
By Waan Choi
Wars are far more frightening than their depictions in books and movies. As incredibly traumatic experiences, wars have life-long impacts on human brains. Because of the extreme levels of stress and scarring experiences, war veterans are also prone to develop severe physical and mental illnesses, leading to a detrimental loop that most veterans never escape from.
War veterans most commonly develop a mental disorder called PTSD, where individuals experience or witness terrifying events. PTSD is an anomaly disorder, meaning that it involves dysfunctions that deform or discord parts of the body in an abnormal manner. The disorder is dangerous not only because of PTSD’s effects but also because it can trigger other illnesses. This includes schizophrenia—a mental disorder in which patients misinterpret reality and suffer from hallucinations, delusions, and disorganised speech.
When an individual is exposed to an extremely traumatizing event, it makes specific sections of their brains hyperactive while making others hypoactive. The amygdala, a part of the brain’s limbic system, is responsible for many functions including emotion and the awareness of our surroundings; when hyperactive, it can cause disorders such as Alzheimer's, autism, and anxiety. The hypo-activation of structures such as the hippocampus can destroy brain cells by shrinking the muscles. Both PTSD and schizophrenia share similar symptoms. Both disorders directly impact both the hippocampus and amygdala and result in decreased grey matter—brain tissue that contains cell bodies and synapses. This affects not only the development of the brain but also the overall behaviour of these individuals, as schizophrenia alters the way that patients view reality; people start having recurrent memories of traumatic events that are exaggerated, which creates negative beliefs and false memories about the past. Thus, this impacts the way they act in the present.
In the status quo, most war veterans and war victims struggle with what people of today perceive to be mundane or ordinary tasks, such as getting a stable job or maintaining a happy family. In order to cope with stress and trauma, they often depend heavily on drugs and alcohol, because it is an affordable and easily accessible solution for them to stay happy and escape the harsh reality of neglect and isolation. According to a New York Times article written by Dani Blum, shes states that the number of cases of PTSD has risen in recent years, while between 11 and 20 per cent of cases are overlooked. The cause of this disorder, wars, not only hurts people physically but also emotionally, causing PTSD along with a lot of other conditions like anxiety and depression. It is important to recognize the seriousness of this disorder in our current society, as these disorders aren’t just ordinary disorders; they are anomaly disorders, meaning that they play an unequalled role in these individuals' lives. Instead of ostracizing and isolating the “anomalies” of society, we should rather view them as those who sincerely need our awareness and help.