Survivor guilt  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Survivor, survivor's, or survivors guilt or syndrome is a mental condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not. It may be found among survivors of combat, natural disasters, epidemics, among the friends and family of those who have committed suicide, and in non-mortal situations such as among those whose colleagues are laid off. The experience and manifestation of survivor's guilt will depend on an individual's psychological profile. When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) was published, survivor guilt was removed as a recognized specific diagnosis, and redefined as a significant symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

References in popular culture

The 1979 novel Sophie's Choice and the subsequent movie feature a Polish Holocaust survivor who had to choose which one of her two young children was allowed to survive.

In the 1980 film, Ordinary People, based on the novel of the same name, Conrad Jarrett is a young man who struggles with surviving a sailing accident which killed his older brother. As Jarrett realizes that he is angry at his brother's recklessness, he confronts the very cause of his problems and begins to accept his own survival had nothing to do with his brother's death.

In Doctor Who, the Ninth Doctor spends a full season enduring survivor's guilt after the destruction of his people, the Time Lords, at the end of the Time War.

In the musical Les Misérables Marius Pontmercy sings "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" which contains lines such as, "Oh my friends, my friends - forgive me, that I live and you are gone. There's a grief that can't be spoken. There's a pain goes on and on." Marius, along with many other students, fought at the barricades in the June Rebellion, however he is the only one to make it out alive as he is rescued by Jean Valjean.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Survivor guilt" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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