'I'm a Monster': Veterans 'Alone' in Their Guilt

February 22, 2013 - 3:30 AM

Military Moral Injury

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2011, photo, former Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo sits outside his apartment in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Kudo walks among civilians carrying a burden of guilt most Americans don’t want to share. A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kudo thinks of himself as a killer. "I can't forgive myself ... and the people who can forgive me are dead," he says. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With American troops at war for more than a decade, an unprecedented number of studies are looking into war zone psychology.

And clinicians suspect that some troops are suffering from an emotional problem they call "moral injuries" — wounds from having done something, or failed to stop something, that violates their moral code.

A moral injury tortures the conscience. Its symptoms include deep shame, guilt and rage.

A former psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general, retired Col. Elspeth Ritchie, says it's not clear how to treat moral injury.

The Defense Department has approved funding for a study among Marines at California's Camp Pendleton to test a therapy that doctors hope will ease guilt.

But officials say a solution could be a long time off.