One of the world's foremost psychiatrists specializing in PTSD, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk visits Big Think to discuss the history of the disorder, its varying effects on sufferers of all ages, and forms of treatment that can "help people to come back to life." To understand PTSD, says Dr. van der Kolk, you have to understand the nature of trauma and the ways in which traumatic triggers can vaporize anyone's joie de vivre. His latest book "The Body Keeps the Score" (http://goo.gl/0xyBfp) was written to draw attention to how traumatic disorders can be avoided.
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Transcript: PTSD was a diagnosis that my generation first created in order to remind the VA to take care of veterans and to really say to the VA these guys are messed up because of Vietnam. And initially people said these guys were always messed up; it must be some other thing. And the way that we organized the diagnosis was around the issue of memory. About that you have flashbacks to witnessing people getting killed, to the horror stuff that they saw in the war. That is not really the primary issue that people came in with; the issue that people came in with was that they had a very hard time getting along with other people, not blowing up at people, becoming scared and frozen, having no feelings for their kids, feeling numb with their girlfriends and general problems with engagement with other human beings and getting triggered and becoming very angry and very upset and very out of sort.
And the memory issue was also an issue but it really is not what people suffer most from, it really is about having difficulty feeling alive in the present, feeling engaged, feeling a sense of pleasure, of joy, of even exuberance at the right moment of just feeling like boy it's good to be alive. And in the years since that time we have understood a lot about what happens in the brain that interferes with the capacity to feel alive in the present.
The primary symptoms are becoming upset, becoming triggered, they're particular sounds, smells, images, bring back states in which people act again as if they're being traumatized. What happens in kids is it's not so much memory issues but becoming upset, becoming angry, being assaultive, being oppositional, not trusting people, unable to concentrate, to pay attention, to engage in anything. And particularly when you're traumatized as a kid, kids are very egocentric and they think that the universe is all about them; that's what it's like to be a kid. And so if terrible things happen to you you feel like this is happening to you because you are a terrible person so this becomes part of your identity. I'm a person who makes bad things happen and I'm also a person who other people cannot possibly care for because people who were supposed to take care of me are not taking care of me.
And so kids develop something more like what we call developmental trauma disorder, in which it invades very many areas of functioning. It doesn't mean that adults who get traumatized may not also have those feelings. Often times traumatized adults often feel ashamed, blame themselves for what has happened to them. When they get raped they say I must have done something wrong to make this happen to me. So the issue of shame and blame is also a very big issue for adults.
Something like three quarters of the U.S. population experiences traumatic events and may actually be triggered by particular things. If you grew up with an alcoholic parent the likelihood that you will have certain traumatic triggers, have certain fears of intimacy, certain uptightness about getting out of control just like that parent went out of control is quite common. And in fact one out of five American women have been sexually molested at some point or another. One out of four Americans have been quite severely beaten by their caregivers. So these are common things. These are common things in the general population. And so most of us either have been painted by that brush ourselves or know people in our environments to whom that has happened and we are living with the consequences thereof. And the reason why I wrote this book actually is to not only draw people's attention to what we know, but also to really draw attention to the fact that we can do something about it and that we have learned a great deal about how to intervene and help people to come back to life. [TRANSCRIPT TRUNCATED]
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Tagged under: Bessel Van Der Kolk,Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Disease Or Medical Condition),Health (Industry),Trauma,Stress,Relationships,Veteran,Veterans Of Foreign Wars (Nonprofit Organization),VFW,Soldier,Abuse,Victim,Military,Flashback (Symptom),VA,Living,Big Think,BigThink,BigThink.,Education,Educational,Lifelong Learning,EDU
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