Customer Reviews: A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century
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on February 28, 2004
Any person interested in traumatic neurosis should read this book. It is meticulously researched, clearly written, and presents a balanced report of the struggles of the military psychiatrists of the 20th century to deal with the dilemma of war and its impact on soldiers. Any therapist, soldier, or veteran will finish much the wiser. Thanks, Ben Shephard!
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on June 22, 2011
The War of Nerves focuses on Psychiatry, a study and treatment of brain and mental damaged soldiers: Past Trauma Syndrome Disorder effecting people engaged in warfare. Ben Shephard manifests scholarly dedication to the sources (65 pages of Notes) depicting how damaging PTSD is, soon after the injury, or later on. It would be worthwhile to mention how PTSD affects those who had sustained injuries or lived in constant fear under circumstances other than in wars. Many victims affected by civil wars, ethnic cleansing, natural disasters, terrorist attacks etc, are prone to PTSD not less severe than those on the battle fronts between nations. A shell fell in front of some British soldiers at a trench in France in WWI. Some of those soldiers were not wounded, yet they could neither see, nor smell or taste properly. Some soldiers were unable to stand up, speak, urinate or defecate. This phenomenon is characterized as The Shock of the Shell. When German soldiers knocked at the door of our apartment to pick me up for deportation my nerves were shattered; I was trembling and stammering. I had experienced similar symptoms as the soldiers being exposed to an explosive artillery shell that landed a few feet away from them. At the front-line some soldiers broke down. At the selection-line, when German soldiers - on the selection line - ripped off babies from their mothers arms, all mothers broke down, inevitable casualties.

As a teenager, I saw the Germans, torturing, beating, shooting, hanging, and other unimaginable acts of extreme wickedness carried out against innocent people. Experiencing or just witnessing such atrocities may lead to desperation and despondency; spiraling downward into deep psychosis. Referring to the Holocaust, p.359 Shephard writes: "Immediately after the war, everyone had wanted to forget, to get on with building a new life" I could agree that most Holocausts survivors wished to build a new life, but I could not agree with Shephard's assertion that Holocaust survivors were inclined to forget. It would be a relief for me not to suffer from nightmares, flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms, 66 years after the Holocaust. I have no control to hold back those unwelcome thoughts from popping up. Some of my physical scars are still visible; they will never fade away. Sharing my life story with life audiences, at schools or churches, horrifying images are appearing in front of my eyes. It is not freeing or eliminating repressed emotions; it is not a cathartic. In trench warfare a cannonade could dull a soldier's senses. Daily torture in concentration camps might have had the same effects. A Nazi guard's blows were not just physically harmful but also psychologically. I do not have to live with the past, the Holocaust lives within me. The reader learns (p.359) that "the West German government offered reparations to Holocausts survivors, if and only, a causal link could be established between their current ill-health and the traumatic experiences they had undergone." As a recipient of that reparation, named Wiedergutmachung (do good again), I am able to attest that my PTSD will only leave me when I leave this planet. In his book The Long Road Home, Shephard corroborates the lingering effects sustained by Holocaust survivors. A WWI veteran was inclined to rush out of the doors when the children were noisy (p.186). I had to run out of the house whenever my children were noisy. Psychohistory that explores the psychological motives and impact on individuals in war settings intrinsically envelopes individuals in all menacing circumstances.
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on April 14, 2010
This book is remarkable for many reasons: for its erudition, for its sweeping historical analysis, for its careful attention to detail, for its excellent writing, and perhaps most of all, for its humanity. This is a book we cannot afford to ignore; our soldiers are still fighting--and still, very often, without the benefit of the knowledge and wisdom contained in the history and experience Ben Shephard collects in this volume. Within and behind the information in this book hover profound moral questions which go right to the baffling core of human reality: what happens to our psyches when we participate in mass, government-sanctioned/organized mass murder of each other? How do we understand the very concept of "our humanity" when to be human has, through the ages, involved warfare, and on a huge scale? Shepherd's work is a magnificent contribution to these sadly age-old and ongoing questions.

The following takes up some of the same questions, in novelistic form: The Listener: A Novel
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on July 21, 2015
Helped with my college course in Military History.
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on July 27, 2006
A fine, well researched history of military psychological practices in the 20th century and easily comprehensible by the layman. As an American, I found the English spelling and punctuation annoying (honourable British writers reverse the use of single and double quotations, don't you know, Love), but you can get past that. I'm sure the British have similiar feelings about the American writing style. I can best compliment War of Nerves by telling you that I am citing it in a book on mental disorders during the American Civil War. Aside from that, I was intrigued by Shephard's thoughts on the creation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a recognized mental condition, i.e., that it came into the lexicon as much or more from social and political reaction to Vietnam as a step forward in mental evaluation.
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