Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Post-Traumatic Stress an American Disorder

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Post-Traumatic Stress an American Disorder

Article excerpt

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), with its formulaic checklist mode of diagnosis and its formulaic treatments, possesses many familiar American characteristics. From World War II American psychiatrists' developed brief "solution-focused" therapy models for soldiers who were in shock, with the aim of quickly returning them to the battlefield. The idea of quick personal transformation had long flourished in the American religious revival meeting and in the idea of positive thinking. American anti-intellectualism in many disciplines favours behaviourist and mechanistic explanations over complex concepts. One hypothesis is that similar proliferating diagnoses help to market pharmaceuticals.

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Checklist diagnosis and treatment are like fast-food. An example, painfully remote from any genuine sense about trauma, is the frequent marketing of "Leading Edge Seminars, Inc." with "Discounted Rates and Bring a Friend!" $295, to learn in a weekend about Rapid PTSD treatments in "short-term, present focused, evidenced-based therapy, with "very positive research outcomes.'" As with much psychiatric diagnosis. gone are the values of confidentiality and of discomfort with labelling. "Clients" are named by their diagnostic acronym.

The present focus on neuroanatomy, genetics, endocrinology confuses cause with mechanism, as if Shakespeare is caused by words or ink. Attributing "PTSD" to hard-wiring means neglecting traumatizing factors like the prison system or extreme economic inequity. Symptom-based diagnosis leaves out cause, meaning, and history and blurs profound differences. V. Volkan, a noted psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, writes of the "massive trauma" suffered by hundreds of thousands of American children and their families when astronaut teacher Christa McAuliffe was killed in the Challenger space shuttle in 1986. …

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