Soldiers Returning from Deployment: A Qualitative Study regarding Exposure, Coping, and Reintegration.

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Purpose/Objective: The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore exposure to deployment-related physical and/or emotional trauma and associated symptoms among Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) soldiers. Interviews also focused on in-theater- and reintegration-related experiences. Research Method/Design: OEF/OIF soldiers (N = 103) participated in semistructured interviews, and a qualitative descriptive methodology was used to analyze the data. Results: Themes were identified regarding (a) common experiences related to emotional and physical traumas and associated symptoms and strategies for coping and making meaning of experiences and (b) how combat and reintegration experiences affected soldiers’ senses of self, relationships with others, and functioning. Conclusions/Implications: Themes identified support a rethinking of deployment-related mild traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder as discrete conditions. Dimensional versus categorical models should be considered. The findings also highlight experiences and potentially meaningful constructs (e.g., moral injury, moral repair) that can be used to inform research and clinical efforts aimed at improving the lives of those who have served.

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