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Rosenberg, E. (1943). A Clinical Contribution to the Psychopathology of the War Neuroses. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:32-41.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:32-41

A Clinical Contribution to the Psychopathology of the War Neuroses

Elizabeth Rosenberg

Most of the analytical material published during and after the last war on the subject of war neuroses dealt with relatively gross disturbances. The attention of the authors at that time was rightly directed towards demonstrating the psychogenic, as opposed to physiogenic, nature of 'shell shock'. Concentration on demonstrating the psychogenic character in general, however, was unfavourable to the more refined psychological investigation of the individual case; usually the purpose of the symptoms—namely to avoid further fighting—was so obvious and so near the surface as barely to merit the description unconscious.

In this war the clinical material seen by psychiatrists is fundamentally different; crude hysterical reactions are rarer, and anxiety state and depression are the most common clinical diagnoses. It may be because of a lingering memory from the last war that many psychiatrists seek a common ætiological basis for all neuroses in this one. 'Flight into illness', considered the common cause of all neuroses then, may therefore soon be replaced by 'separation anxiety'. Instead of fear of the battle-field some speak of 'lack of morale and social conscience', and the moralistic attitude goes so far that a member of this society (Fairbairn, 1943) stated in a recently published paper: 'Perhaps it is small wonder that after acquiring some disillusioning experience of neurotic service men en masse I was driven to remark, "What these people really need is not a psychotherapist but an evangelist".

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