The Hidden Impact of War: Dive into the Psychological Aftermath

Gathered around the coffee station in between meetings, the weather was once the star topic amongst colleagues—amongst acquaintances who are not comfortable enough to share personal stories but can open topics of discussions that are safe and time-filling.  In family gatherings, discussions would flow, and opinions would rise, predicting weather forecasts with some history lessons comparing what once was to what now is. With time, however, the weather became less important. With time, people’s minds became more occupied, more worried, and more cynical. With time, even during the great global warming crisis the world is going through now, people have less energy to discuss those effects. From casual conversations to weighty discussions, the shift in our collective focus now reflects a stark reality: People’s minds are focused on one thing, one topic, one matter… WAR. The enduring presence and impact of war.

What Is War?

War is a state of organized conflict between groups, usually nations or states. War is characterized by extreme hostility, aggression, and often violent confrontation, typically to achieve political, social, or territorial goals. War leads to the death of a civilization; if not physically, then mentally. War, it is safe to say, is destructive and unpleasant.  

Understanding the Impact of War:          

The aftermath of war is often challenging and long-lasting. Whether directly affected by war, or on the side-lines of it, war can have an undeniably strong impact on both the body and the mind.

The Physical Toll of War

  • Hypervigilance: Constantly on edge and alert of potential threats.
  • Startle Response: Jumping at sudden sounds or movements.
  • Tremors and Shaking.
  • Insomnia and Sleep Disturbances.
  • Gastrointestinal Distress: Such as stomach pain, nausea, diarrhoea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Gastrointestinal distress is often linked to the body's natural stress response and can be intensified by ongoing psychological distress.
  • Headaches and Migraines: Extreme head pain that can be triggered by stress, tension, and anxiety, and may persist long after the traumatic event has occurred.
  • Cardiovascular Problems: Heart problems may develop or worsen as a result of the physiological effects of chronic stress on the body.
  • Immune System Dysfunction: Weakening of the immune system due to stress or trauma. This, in turn, makes individuals more susceptible to infections, illness, and autoimmune disorders.

 Addressing the physical side effects of war requires comprehensive medical care. These listed symptoms, along with others, that may not have been mentioned, are not something to disregard. The manifestation of stress and trauma on the human body may lead to very serious consequences. It is highly recommended to seek help if you find yourself going through any physical reaction after a certain stress or trauma.

The body gives us signs indicating that the mind is not at ease. After trauma, specifically war, the mind goes through symptoms and effects that outline the aftermath of the disturbing event(s).


Navigating the Mental Effects of War

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Can result from exposure to traumatic events such as combat, witnessing violence, or experiencing life-threatening situations. Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, and emotional numbness.
  • Depression and Anxiety Disorders: This can include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Symptoms may include persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, excessive worry, panic attacks, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Survivor's Guilt: Feeling remorseful for having survived while others did not. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness, self-blame, and psychological distress.
  • Substance Abuse and Addiction: Drug, alcohol, or other substances to self-medicate or numb emotional pain when coping becomes challenging.
  • Difficulty with Relationships: Communication, trust, and intimacy may become hard to manage. Individuals may struggle to connect with others or maintain healthy relationships, which can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Anger and Aggression: These emotions may be directed inward, leading to self-destructive behaviours, or outward, resulting in conflicts with others and impulsive or violent actions.
  • Cognitive Impairments: Difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making. These cognitive deficits can interfere with daily tasks and contribute to feelings of frustration and helplessness.
  • Emotional Numbing: A diminished ability to experience pleasure or connect emotionally with others. This may be a coping mechanism to deal with the overwhelming feelings of fear, sadness, or guilt associated with war-related trauma.
  • Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours: May arise due to struggling with PTSD, depression, or substance abuse. It's crucial for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek immediate help from mental health professionals or support hotlines.
  • Loss of Identity and Purpose: Feelings of loss, confusion, and existential distress.

These mental health side effects highlight the importance of support systems. Early intervention and treatment can help mitigate the long-term impact of these mental health challenges and improve overall well-being.

Seeking Support

If any of the above physical and mental symptoms feel close to what you’re feeling, it is very crucial to seek support as soon as possible. To enhance your well-being, the gap between the stressor/trauma and getting support should be as short as possible.

  1. Reach Out to Mental Health Professionals: Start by seeking help from mental health professionals who specialize in trauma and post-war counselling.
  2. Join Support Groups: Consider joining support groups. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences, connect with others who understand your struggles, and learn coping strategies from peers who have been through similar experiences.
  3. Utilize Hotlines and Helplines: Many organizations offer hotlines and helplines staffed by trained professionals who can provide immediate support and guidance.
  4. Involve Family and Friends: Don't hesitate to lean on your loved ones for support. Share your experiences with trusted family members and friends who can provide emotional support and lend a listening ear.
  5. Explore Alternative Therapies: Consider exploring art therapy, yoga, and meditation. These approaches can aid in healing and self-expression.
  6. Take Care of Your Physical Health: Prioritize your physical health by attending regular medical check-ups, adhering to any prescribed treatment plans, and engaging in healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, nutrition, and adequate sleep. Physical well-being is closely linked to mental health.
  7. Stay Persistent and Patient: Recovery from the physical and mental side effects of war is a journey that takes time, patience, and persistence. Be kind to yourself, celebrate small victories, and remember that healing is possible with the right support and resources.

 The echoes of war reverberate through communities and generations, and it is imperative we recognize the far-reaching impact of war on both individuals and societies.  Even those who are geographically distant from war zones can experience the physical and mental consequences of war; whether it's through indirect exposure to traumatic events, supporting loved ones who have served, or grappling with the broader societal impacts of conflict. It is not uncommon for many nations to suffer the effects of another country’s war. However, by acknowledging the profound effects of war and embracing proactive steps towards seeking support and healing, we can collectively work towards fostering resilience and rebuilding shattered lives.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published