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Posttraumatic Stress Is Not a Disorder. Just Sayin’.

26 Jun

June 27th is National Posttraumatic Stress Awareness Day, so I’m taking the occasion to point out a few things. 

The actual name for the day is “PTSD” Awareness Day, but I’m not using those initials, because I don’t think the “D” (for Disorder) belongs there. The experience of Posttraumatic Stress does not constitute a mental disorder, regardless of PTSD’s prominent listing in the DSM-V. (That’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which therapists use to assign diagnoses and file for insurance).  

PTS is a normal reaction to abnormal events.

It’s a body based neurophysiological and biochemical response to threat.

It’s an ancient, human, survival-driven, wired-in answer to danger, real or perceived – it makes no difference to the body.

Capacity for words shuts down and sheer instinct takes over. That’s so we can move and act faster, the better to save our lives.

Ugly images stay stuck in the brain and repeat, as fresh and contemporaneous as the day they first showed up. That’s because traumatic memories aren’t stored in the usual structures in the brain where normal memories are housed.

That’s why standard therapy or “the talking cure” doesn’t help as much as we once thought it could.  It’s like apples trying to talk to oranges.

Instead, techniques like guided imagery, EMDR, Healing Touch, Somatic Experiencing, Yoga Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique and other sensory and body based approaches are far more effective and quick-acting. That’s apples talking to apples.

I tried to spell this out in my book, Invisible Heroes. So does Robert Scaer in The Body Bears the Burden. Peter Levine was early to the party with Waking the Tiger. Bessel van der Kolk came later with The Body Keeps the Score

Hopefully the DSM-VI will set the record straight and take out that D. Stay tuned!

All best,

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Belleruth 

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award