Use of psychological decompression in military operational environments

Mil Med. 2008 Jun;173(6):534-8. doi: 10.7205/milmed.173.6.534.


This article reviews the use of psychological decompression as applied to troops returning from active service in operational theaters. Definitions of the term are considered and a brief history is given. Current policies and practices are described and the question of mandatory decompression is considered. Finally, the evidence base for the efficacy of decompression is examined and some conclusions are drawn. This article highlights variations in the definition and practice of decompression and its use. Although there is, as yet, no evidence that decompression works, there is also no evidence to the contrary. Given the lack of knowledge as to the balance of risks and benefits of decompression and the absence of any definitive evidence that decompression is associated with improved mental health outcomes or that lack of decompression is associated with the reverse, it is argued that the use of decompression should remain a matter for discretion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Mandatory Programs
  • Mental Health*
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Psychology, Military / methods*
  • Rest*
  • United Kingdom