Psychiatric syndromes in Persian Gulf war veterans: An association of handling dead bodies with somatoform disorders

Lawrence A. Labbate*, Etzel Cardeña, Juliette Dimitreva, Michael Roy, Charles C. Engel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Traumatic combat experience has been associated with the development of posttraumatic stress disorder, but there have been few studies about the association of military combat experience and the development of somatoform disorders. Methods: The authors evaluated 131 referred Gulf War veterans for medical and psychiatric syndromes thought related to their involvement in the Gulf War. Patients completed questionnaires regarding their traumatic experiences and were interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM III-R. Results: For the sample, 69% had axis I conditions. Major depression, undifferentiated somatoform and posttraumatic stress disorders were the most common diagnoses. Reports of traumatic events were associated with both posttraumatic stress disorder (p < 0.05) and somatoform diagnoses (p < 0.05). Veterans who handled dead bodies had a 3-fold risk of receiving a somatoform diagnosis (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Psychiatric syndromes may explain some medical complaints following involvement in the Persian Gulf War. The results suggest that some psychological and nonspecific somatic symptoms persisting since the Gulf War may be related to exposure to psychological trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-279
Number of pages5
JournalPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Major depression
  • Military
  • Persian gulf war
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Somatoform disorder


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