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Combat Story

May 4, 2024

This episode dives deep into the challenges and conditions dubbed 'Operator Syndrome' faced by veterans and active-duty members of the military, exploring both psychological and physical facets, including traumatic brain injury, PTSD, hormonal imbalances, low testosterone, existential issues, and more. 

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The episode features insights from Dr. Chris Frueh, a clinical psychologist with extensive experience treating thousands of veterans, on the complexity of these issues and the effects on individuals and their families. It also highlights the importance of a holistic approach to treatment, covering proper diet, sleep, medical care, and the support structures provided by organizations like the Warrior Health Foundation. 


Additionally, it addresses the unique experiences of female operators and the broader implications of these syndromes across different nations and military roles.


Check out our interview with Derek Nadalini - former Delta Force operator featured in this video - at

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   🔗 Website

   📘 Book Operator Syndrome

   📖 White Paper

   📸 Instagram: drchrisfrueh


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   🎵 Intro Song: Sport Rock from Audio Jungle

#veterans #operatorsyndrome #ptsd #specialoperations 

⏰ Show Notes:

  • 00:00 - Intro
  • 01:11 Unveiling Operator Syndrome with Dr. Chris Frueh
  • 01:22 The Science Behind Operator Syndrome
  • 02:01 Chris Frueh: A Life Dedicated to Veterans' Health
  • 04:36 The Power of Music and Connection
  • 06:20 Understanding Operator Syndrome: A Deep Dive
  • 14:58 The Personal Journey of Dr. Chris Frueh
  • 25:43 Insights into History of Suicide in Active Duty Military since the 1800s
  • 36:27 Why do we call Operator Syndrome a Syndrome
  • 42:18 What exactly is TBI (it's not what I expected)
  • 50:36 The Hidden Impact of TBIs Beyond Physical Injuries
  • 53:29 Diagnosing and Recognizing TBIs: Challenges and Approaches
  • 55:04 The Signature Injury of Modern Warfare: Research and Realities
  • 55:41 Innovations and Adjustments in Training to Mitigate TBI Risks
  • 01:05:51 The Psychological and Existential Effects of Operator Syndrome
  • 01:14:31 Addressing TBIs: Medical Insights and Personal Stories
  • 01:15:31 The Global Perspective: Operator Syndrome in International Forces
  • 01:16:42 Women in Combat w/ Operator Syndrome
  • 01:24:56 Three Things to Change if You're Dealing with Operator Syndrome 
  • 01:29:56 Closing Thoughts and Listener Comments


What is Operator Syndrome?


From Chris' Research paper: We identified a consistent pattern of health-care difficulties within the special operation forces community that we and other special operation forces health-care providers have termed “Operator Syndrome.” This includes interrelated health and functional impairments including traumatic brain injury effects; endocrine dysfunction; sleep disturbance; obstructive sleep apnea; chronic joint/back pain, orthopedic problems, and headaches; substance abuse; depression and suicide;

anger; worry, rumination, and stress reactivity; marital, family, and community dysfunction; problems with sexual health and intimacy; being “on guard” or hypervigilant; memory, concentration, and cognitive impairments; vestibular and vision impairments; challenges of the transition from military to civilian life; and common existential issues.


“Operator Syndrome” may be understood as the natural consequences of an extraordinarily high allostatic load; the accumulation of physiological, neural, and neuroendocrine responses resulting from the prolonged chronic stress; and physical demands of a career with the military special forces. Clinical research and comprehensive, intensive immersion programs are needed to meet the unique needs of this community.