“A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD”

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The New York Times Profiles Bessel van der Kolk, and the controversial approaches to working with trauma, such as yoga and “tapping,” that he espouses.  ““If we can help our patients tolerate their own bodily sensations, they’ll be able to process the trauma themselves,” he says.

A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD (New York Times)

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11 COMMENTS

  1. When I get an anxiety attack anything I do with my ‘head’ reinforces the anxiety. But if I can not engage mentally, eventually it passes off. I’m stuck with this because its as a result of long term withdrawal syndrome. But I know what to do about it.

  2. I believe it’s disingenuous to proclaim reactions to trauma are “mental illnesses,” that can be cured with tranquilizers. Especially since the tranquilizers can, themselves, cause traumatic reactions, including psychosis, and terrifying nightmares; not to mention, stigmatizing a person harms, rather than helps, that person. I believe healing only occurs when one can mentally come to grips with the traumatic experience, although success in doing such is likely different for every person. But denying or stigmatizing the trauma and instead medicating it, as mainstream psychiatry is now doing, only makes matters worse. “Blame the victim” is psychiatry’s philosophy.

    • You’re right there. Psychiatry turns locked in PTSD into a specific brain ‘illness’. It uses the confidence of medicine to do this, and once a person believes this they are f###ed. Lots of people believe this, because people believe doctors. When I was in hospital 30 years ago suffering from withdrawal syndrome, I believed it myself.

      But I got talking to a psychologist while I was in there and he told me that everyone can recover without drugs. I said some people can – and he said no, everybody can recover from ‘illnesses’ like ‘Schizophrenia’ and ‘Manic depression’ without drugs.
      I did recover through slow taper, and non drug help.

      • I’m not a psychiatrist but I have worked clinically with adults in an acute psychiatric inpatient setting who suffer from a variety of diagnoses. I just want to clarify something. Many people can “recover” or improve his/her quality of living without medication however there are disorders that are chemical in nature: such as schizophrenia. This is something that should be treated with medication due to the fact that a person with schizophrenia has difficulty or a complete inability to create essential neurotransmitters that are necessary for the brain to function “normally.” To say a person can recover from schizophrenia without medication is to say a person with diabetes should be able to recover and not need insulin. It is chemical.
        I think it’s great if you’ve found a way to live and thrive without medication. You’re lucky because I agree medications can be a tricky thing. But because I do not have training or adequate knowledge to speak on specific medications I will not. However my training and education does provide me with the knowledge that allows me to speak accurately about mental health and not make wide sweeping remarks.
        You post also adds to the negative stigma by implying that people just aren’t doing what they are “supposed to” or they are not trying hard enough. It’s offensive for those suffering, who have recovered as well as those treating these individuals (like me).

        • I am also a therapist who has worked quite a bit in inpatient settings…and I would have to say that what is “offensive” is giving strong neuroleptic drugs long term to people who have gone through an extreme state like psychosis and mania. If a person decides that is what they want to do, then that is their right….but each individual should know the tremendous complications inherent in getting started on neuroleptics and cocktails of drugs.

          Suggesting that “schizophrenia” is a life time illness requiring a lifetime of health destroying neuroleptics is severely problematic. There are countless stories of people who have gone through psychosis and manic states, been labeled “schizophrenic” and have been able to recover without the use of drugs. Look up Will Hall for a classic example.

          It’s not about “not trying hard enough”. It’s about creating an alternative support structure where the emphasis is not placed on intensely problematic neuroleptics. Check out Open Dialogue as an example.

          But please, don’t spread completely false information that “schizophrenia” is like diabetes and health destroying neuroleptics are like insulin. It makes you look, frankly, uneducated.

          • To fiachra: I think you misunderstood me. The “labels” sound like they were incorrect and thus your problems weren’t chronic. Labels and mislabels are a huge part of the problem, not the reality that some people require meds. You didn’t and that’s great.

            To others responders: I think my words were not clear or well written. I want to clarify that I believe that medication and over medication is a significant problem. I have been incorrectly diagnosed with countless disorders that “require” medication but in the end they caused more problems than helped. I believe the mind in powerful and that many people, most people could do without it. One trick of it all is that different forms of therapy that can be truly helpful in lue of medication are often thought of as secondary of adjunctive to medication, the trick is that there isn’t as much support around alternatives like you and I both agree should be more widely accepted. I just can’t say that completely throwing medication out all together is not a viable option. It does a lots of harm, undoubtably. But we can not discount the times it has helped. Sometimes illnesses are psychological and respond to more cognitively based therapies like CBT and that is a wonderful thing. But here are situations/issues where people like fiachra shared when they were incorrectly diagnosed or individuals are so acutely cognitively impaired and inaccessable to responding to the world around them that they become a danger to themselves and others. In my opinion here are times were medication is a completely viable and even necessary option. My whole insulin metaphor/example was to explain than mental illnesses are sometimes chemical and that they may need medication.

            There is no need to get aggressive with any of the poeple posting (and throwing words like “uneducated” arond) and I apologize if you intepreteted my words as an attack of any kind. I agree with you. I think so often hot topics like these are such sensitive subjects the passion can overwhelm.
            The answers just aren’t black and white. It’s black and white thinking from the perspective of medicine prescribers that has contributed to all this in the first place. I personal don’t think coming at it completely from the other end of the spectrum looks at the nuances of what we’re talking about.

          • atherapistwithexperience
            Thanks for your comment, but I think my situation is the same as quite a few people with similar ‘diagnosis’ – it’s the chemical treatments that lock people into long term ‘illness’. After I escaped, I never ‘relapsed’ , because I found better methods of dealing with things.

          • atherapistwithexperience
            I took light doses of meds for many years after coming off the stronger medication. But this resolved itself eventually of its own accord.
            I dont think Diabetes is like this. I would describe the meds as tranquillizers, not as real medication – I think this is a better description because a person might use tranquillizers, but it’s good to know this.