Signs of combat stress in individuals and organizations

Early detection can be to help minimize the effects


The Army Field Manual states, "Combat stress causes battle fatigue. Battle fatigue is the broad umbrella label for the physical, mental and emotional signs that result naturally from facing danger or from performing dangerous missions under difficult conditions." (6-22 and FM 6-22.5.)

Army Field Manual further says that battle fatigue is a simple condition which is not medical or a psychiatric illness. (6-22 and FM 6-22.5)

Signs of Combat Stress in Individuals
There are some obvious signs of stress that may help you recognize it in yourself and others so that an early detection can be to help minimize the effects of stress.

Physical signs of stress:
• Dry mouth
• Fatigue 
• Inability to move muscles
• Forgetfulness
• Inability to concentrate

Emotional signs of stress:
• Anxiety
• Frustration
• Guilt
• Irritability
• Moodiness
• Nervousness
• Pessimism
• Tension

Other signs of stress:
• Alcohol abuse
• Drug abuse
• Emotional outbursts
• Excitability
• Negativism
• Restlessness
• Speech disorder
• Trembling
• Apathy

Signs of Combat Stress in Police Units
Command officers should be mindful that stress can affect your entire unit, shift or precinct. That doesn’t mean that your unit or officers have a major problem; it simply means that you are duty bound to attempt to minimize the stress to ensure a productive and safe working environment.

Signs of stress in your unit:
• Excessive sick calls
• Bickering amongst the unit or shift
• Dissatisfaction
• Lack of cohesion
• Failure to follow orders
• Insubordination
• Lack of productivity
• Sensitivity

About the author

Glenn French, a retired Sergeant with the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department, has 24 years police experience and served as the Team Commander for the Special Response Team, and supervisor of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau. He has 16 years SWAT experience and also served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, and Explosive Breacher.

Contact Glenn French.

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