Combat high or traumatic stress : violent offending is associated with appetitive aggression but not with symptoms of traumatic stress

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Memo TV - Epigenetic, neural and cognitive memories of traumatic stress and violence
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Frontiers in Psychology. 2015, 5, 1518. eISSN 1664-1078. Available under: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01518
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Former members of armed groups in eastern DR Congo had typically witnessed, experienced, and perpetrated extreme forms of violence. Enhanced trauma-related symptoms had been shown in prior research. But also lashing out in self-defense is a familiar response to threat defined as reactive aggression. Another potential response is appetitive aggression, in which the perpetration of excessive violence is perceived as pleasurable (combat high). What roles do these forms of aggressive behavior play in modern warfare and how are they related to posttraumatic stress symptoms? To answer the question, we sought to determine predictors for appetitive aggressive and trauma-related mental illness, and investigated the frequency of psychopathological symptoms for high- and low-intensity conflict demobilization settings. To this end, we interviewed 213 former members of (para)military groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in regard to their combat exposure, posttraumatic stress, appetitive aggression, depression, suicidality, and drug dependence. Random forest regression embedded in a conditional inference framework revealed that perpetrated violent acts are not necessarily stressful. In fact, the experience of violent acts that typically implicated salient cues of hunting (e.g., blood, suffering of the victim, etc.) had the strongest association with an appetite for aggression. Furthermore, the number of lifetime perpetrated violent acts was the most important predictor of appetitive aggression. However, the number of perpetrated violent acts did not significantly affect the posttraumatic stress. Greater intensity of conflict was associated with more severe posttraumatic stress symptoms and depression. Psychotherapeutic interventions that address appetitive aggression in addition to trauma-related mental illness, including drug dependence, therefore seem indispensible for a successful reintegration of those who fought in the current civil wars.

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ISO 690KOEBACH, Anke, Susanne SCHAAL, Thomas ELBERT, 2015. Combat high or traumatic stress : violent offending is associated with appetitive aggression but not with symptoms of traumatic stress. In: Frontiers in Psychology. 2015, 5, 1518. eISSN 1664-1078. Available under: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01518
BibTex
@article{Koebach2015Comba-30742,
  year={2015},
  doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01518},
  title={Combat high or traumatic stress : violent offending is associated with appetitive aggression but not with symptoms of traumatic stress},
  volume={5},
  journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
  author={Koebach, Anke and Schaal, Susanne and Elbert, Thomas},
  note={Article Number: 1518}
}
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