A History of Trauma research
Psychological trauma has a long history dating back to Homer the "first teacher", of tragedy. As an etiological factor in mental disorders” ,“trauma....”was first reported by Janet in the 19th century (van der Kolk, 2004) doducmenting that a person stored traumatic memories differently to ordinary memories.
Breuer and Freud (1895) – who were studing “hysteria” laregly agreed. Although the two men had slightly differing views about where and how a patient 's traumatic memories were stored Breuer; misplaced and inaccessible Freud; repressed (Leys, 2000) they both agreed that ‘hysteria’ whilst pathogenic in nature was a result of trauma.
In recent times ‘hysteria’ has been re-branded as PTSD and the American Psychiatric Association (1980) report that “controversy has haunted the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder ever since”. Spiegal in Yehuda (1999) posits that ‘progress in the field is ‘rarely linear” coming instead from unexpected sources’, hence the need for therapists to stay abreast of new findings.
Defining Post Traumatic Stress
Amongst the many definitions of post traumatic stress; the one that most comfortably sits with my personal humanistic ethos is “the normal reaction of normal people to abnormal events” (Everly, Everly and Lating, 1995).
In further deconstructing the term I established that
‘trauma’ is the Greek word for ‘wound’ (WebMD, 2005) and is also described as both a physical injury or as “a psychological injury caused by ‘severe emotional shock’ (Lehmkuhl, 1996). Stress is defined in physics as “an applied force that tends to strain or deform a body” (Free Dictionary, 2003) which interestingly ‘cannot be measured dir...
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...in PTSD development in some individuals but not others and Carr’s (2001) work confirmed this expanding on the theory and concluding that people exposed to repeated trauma ‘may cope by dissociating their consciousness from the experience of the trauma….. by entering a trance-like state’ and that the habit of dissociation is strengthened simply because it brings relief from distress. Hence the sociological background to both the trauma and to the person’s social context may play a large role in how person’s symptoms are expressed. Looking at the above holistically I would point to the external effects in a person’s life as a a synthesis of perspectives in that what we might observe in a person suffering dissociative symptoms (and PTSD) could include the breakdown of their relationships, a loss of confidence or self-esteem and perhaps difficulty in holding down a job.
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