The psychology and psychiatry of the nuclear arms race have been discussed in three main ways. One approach has looked at the possible psychological consequences for the surviving population of a nuclear war. These studies, which have covered a wide range of catastrophes, including the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, Nazi concentration camps, as well as natural disasters such as floods and cyclones, all point in the same direction. When half or more of a person's social and physical environment are destroyed the effects on the human psyche are devastating. The phrase ‘the survivor syndrome’ has been used to describe the state of psychological shock and disablement which results in those that are left behind by the dead. Its effects outlive the physical sequelae of such disasters and are matched in longevity only by the slowly developing cancers which manifest themselves two or more decades after a thermonuclear explosion. These studies make the scouting-for-boys and cricketing atmosphere evoked by the British Government pamphlet ‘Protect and Survive’, or the recent Civil Defence exercise, Square Leg, seem remote from the likely psychological reality of a post-nuclear attack world.
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