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Texas A&M Study Finds Mental Resilience In Deployed Combat Troops
July 20, 2011
Deployed soldiers in units that are facing high-risk combat situations show extraordinary tolerance for their stressful environment, found a Texas A&M University study published in the scholarly journal Psychological Assessment.
Even more remarkable, adds psychology professor Leslie Morey, is the study reveals that deployed troops have nearly identical reports of potential emotional or psychological problems when compared to their civilian counterparts back in the U.S., a finding that may point to potential adaptive mechanisms in place to sustain deployed troops that are not present once they return stateside.
Morey, who specializes in diagnosis and assessment of mental disorders, began collaborating with the U.S. Army after the Army began studying the potential development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cognitive problems in deployed troops who had suffered from combat-related concussions. Army researchers were using the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI), a widely used measurement created by Morey in 1991, to compare troops within the same unit who had received concussions and those who had not. In first analyzing the data, Morey was surprised to see that the responses of the control group — soldiers who had not received concussions but were selected to represent the typical effects of combat stresses — were remarkably normal. This realization led to an important additional focus for the study.
“Nobody had ever done a comprehensive study of the psychological effects of being in a combat unit, attempting to distinguish what might be PTSD versus what is the normative response in these situations,” Morey says.
Morey, along with graduate student Sara Lowmaster and an Army research team, evaluated 103 soldiers in three Iraqi cities — Baghdad, Mosul and Balad — throughout 2009 with the assistance of funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. They used Morey’s PAI to observe a wide range of psychological experiences and problems that the troops might have, including depression, traumatic stress, anger control, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and anxiety.
Using responses to the PAI from a national U.S. community sample collected during the standardization of the instrument, Morey was able to make comparisons between each individual soldier and his or her stateside equivalent.
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