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Keywords:

  • [trauma;
  • adversity;
  • PTSD;
  • military;
  • combative culture;
  • neuroanthropology]

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a problem that affects many combatants in war, including a high percentage of military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The high rates of PTSD among veterans has pushed research and intervention to address the serious mental and behavioral health problems associated with wartime trauma. However, these efforts have largely proceeded using biomedical and psychological approaches, without recognizing the institutional and social contexts of trauma, adaptation, and recovery. Moreover, biomedical and psychological approaches have serious shortcomings in recognizing how individual–environment interactions, meaningful interpretations, and sense of identity play a key role in the impact of trauma and development (or not) of PTSD. A neuroanthropological approach can use ideas of neural plasticity and the encultured brain to link culture, interpretation and identity, and the impact of trauma. This synthetic approach then permits a critique of present efforts in the U.S. military to increase resilience and prevent PTSD, and propose alternative strategies and research approaches to more effectively understand and address PTSD.