A systematic review of the psychosocial impact of emotional numbing in US combat veterans

Donna L. Schuman, John Bricout, H. Leona Peterson, Sheila Barnhart

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Context: Previous studies have linked posttraumatic emotional numbing symptoms in US combat veterans with an adverse impact in multiple important life domains. Objectives: We updated and evaluated the evidence examining the psychosocial impact of combat-related emotional numbing, including ethnoracial and gender differences. Method: We reviewed 1,209 articles published betwen January 2012 and 2018 and selected 24 studies for inclusion. We assessed the overall study quality as fair using a national quality assessment tool. Results: Studies found emotional numbing to wield adverse effects in the areas of symptom nonimprovement, mental health difficulties, increased service utilization, poor relationship functioning, reduced quality of life, substance use disorders, suicidality, and aggression/violence. We also found evidence of ethnoracial and gender differences in veterans’ posttraumatic stress disorder-related emotional numbing symptoms. Conclusion: Clinicians should incorporate findings on emotional numbing into assessment, treatment planning, and monitoring, to improve treatment retention and psychosocial outcomes. Implications for ethnoracial and gender differences require further exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-663
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of clinical psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • emotional numbing
  • military
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • systematic review
  • veteran


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