Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Warring identities: identity conflict and the mental distress of American Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Smith RT, True JG. Warring identities: identity conflict and the mental distress of American Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Society and mental health. 2014 Jan 9; 4(2):147-161.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


Drawing from 26 life story interviews of recent American veterans, this paper analyzes the identity struggle faced by soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and reentering the civilian world. Instead of examining veterans' problems as a consequence of post-combat mental illnesses such as PTSD and major depression, we analyze the contrast between the participants' identities as soldiers and their identities as civilians. We find that the postwar transition causes adverse mental health effects that stem from contrasts between the military's demands for deindividuation, obedience, chain-of-command, and dissociation and the civilian identity expectations of autonomy, self-advocacy, and being relational. Veterans' reintegration to civilian society is further hindered by a culture that is perceived (by veterans) as having decreased understanding of the soldier/veteran experience itself. These identity conflicts-what we term warring identities-have an important yet understudied effect on veterans' combat-related mental health problems.

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.