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Open Access War-Related Medically Unexplained Symptoms, Prevalence, and Treatment: Utilizing EMDR Within the Armed Services

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Abstract:

The mental health impact of war is often underestimated by military, government, and media officials who focus primarily on well-known conditions like depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while ignoring the complex toll of modern warfare. These effects are clearly evident in "war syndromes," many of which can be collectively understood as medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). The current study provides a brief historical review of combat-related MUS as well as an analysis of present evidence of a possible "Iraqi War Syndrome." An overview of past and current treatments for combat MUS is followed by a single case study treating an Iraqi war combat veteran with combat-related MUS with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Therapy resulted in significant improvement of the patient's 1-year psychophysical condition and comorbid PTSD. We provide a detailed account of those treatment sessions as well as a discussion of EMDR's potential to simultaneously treat a range of combat-related psychophysical conditions without requiring extensive homework or self-disclosure that some military patients may resist. The results are promising, but they require further research.

Keywords: COMBAT; EMDR; MEDICALLY UNEXPLAINED SYMPTOMS; OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM; WAR SYNDROMES

Document Type: Case Report

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-3196.2.3.212

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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  • The Journal of EMDR Practice and Research is a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication devoted to integrative, state-of-the-art papers about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a broadly conceived interdisciplinary journal that stimulates and communicates research and theory about EMDR, and their application to clinical practice.
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