Monday, April 19, 2010

Madness and Trauma

I've been reading Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery, and have been thinking that there may be very little real mental illness in the world and a whole lotta normal aftereffects of trauma. Given how riddled with trauma the world is (1 in 3 women sexually abused in their lifetime, 1 in 4 women raped, war, racism, homophobia, child abuse), I cannot imagine how we could ever effectively distinguish between abnormal thinking and normal response to trauma, when NORMAL responses to trauma include dissociation, insomnia, depression, denial, repression, amnesia, relationship problems. Herman claims that complex post-traumatic stress responses mimic the symptoms of any number of so-called mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, multiple personality disorder. The problem with misdiagnosis is that the root causes of the symptoms never get addressed. It strikes me as strange that in my own experience with the psychiatry industry, I was never once asked whether I had ever been raped, sexually abused, or otherwise traumatized. Why isn't a patient's trauma history an automatic part of the diagnostic process? It should be.

1 comment:

  1. Wow--this is an amazing post. I remember this from your talk, but it's even more powerful in writing. You need to popularize the discourse of trauma--take it from the academic setting and toward a large audience. The time is *now*.