Category: ACEs

Is it possible to recover from rape and sexual abuse? Yes and No

When she was twenty-two years old, philosopher Karyn L. Freedman was viciously raped at knifepoint. She narrowly escaped being murdered and her body disposed, perhaps never to be found. In her memoir, One Hour in Paris, Freedman recounted her efforts to heal from this horrifying ordeal. Nearly 25 years have passed since she was raped, …

Want to reduce mental illness? Address trauma. Want to save the world? Address trauma.

Different explanations have been given for the increased number of people suffering from mental illness. Some have claimed the increase is the result of ever-expanding diagnostic criteria and syndromes that risk medicalizing normal emotional reactions. Others argue the increase is the result of the pharmaceutical industry financially courting the medical establishment as well as using …

Trauma-informed psychotherapy puts the body – and love – back in mental healthcare

Painting of the word "Love".

For the past 50 years, psychotherapy has taken a back seat to biomedical psychiatry, largely due to reliance on medications for the treatment of mental disorders. Yet clinical evidence increasingly points to chronic, unresolved traumatic stress as the source of many — if not most — mental disorders. Furthermore, longitudinal analyses show continued use of psychotropic medications …

Attachment theory through a cultural lens

In an article titled “Attachment and Culture (citation below),” Heidi Keller exposes attachment theory’s Western, middle-class assumptions. She argues: “… the definition of attachment in mainstream attachment research are in line with the conception of psychological autonomy, adaptive for Western middle-class, but deviate from the cultural values of many non-Western and mainly rural ecosocial environments.” …

ADHD: When meds (and genes) become a failure to act

Photo of mural in San Francisco's Mission District.

While reading a 2007 press release from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), I became unusually hopeful for youths diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A study performed jointly by the NIMH and the National Institute of Health revealed the brains of youths with ADHD develop normally but at different rates. In the prefrontal …

1.Stop. 2.Blink. 3.Imagine. (Repeat)

Chaim Potok wrote: “Life is like the blink of an eye. What is it worth? Nothing. But the eye that blinks — that is something.” Yet Tamami Nakano of Osaka University and her colleagues are discovering the blink is meaningful. Rather than just a mechanical reflex that keeps the eyeball moist and flaps away dust, …

Shopping for families

After decades as an American consumer, I have finally developed the acumen necessary for surviving the holiday shopping season. With the exception of a few hectic hours, I have so far successfully avoided malls and online shopping. Truly, I feel blessed this holiday season. Unfortunately, I have not escaped saturation with advertisements for the makings …

Born to be raised

I often wonder what it would take to heal centuries of violence, oppression, complicated grief, and emotional neglect. And yet the impulse to heal, social engineer, and reform often seems symptomatic of what is traumatizing about the US and the West in general — that perpetual need to fix a broken system. We know things aren’t right with the …

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

I typically ignore national awareness initiatives saddled to particular months. There are simply too many of them. For example, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; Crime Prevention Month; Health Literacy Month; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender History Month; National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; National Cyber Security Awareness Month; National Disability Employment Awareness Month; National Family Sexuality …

Attachment and the intergenerational transmission of trauma

I have blogged about the connection between love and psychotherapy, and the topic is up again for me after a recent sensorimotor training. In part, the training focused on the relationship between early life attachment, character development, and later life patterns of relating. The gifted (and seemingly indefatigable) Dr. Janina Fisher led the training, tossing …

When psychiatry retraumatizes

Before I became a psychotherapist, I often wrote, lectured, and blogged about damaging aspects of psychiatry. I am more hopeful now — not about psychiatry improving, but about truly helpful mental healthcare for people who might otherwise be labeled “chronically” mentally ill and forever take medications to tranquillize their internal demons. Since I began combining …

Alexithymia, emotional neglect & capitalism: How are they related?

Alexithymia. Now that’s quite the word. Derived from the Ancient Greek, it means “without words for emotions,” and identifies difficulties with recognizing and naming feelings. Since emotions are central for understanding oneself and others, not being able to discern what you feel can cause distress, agitation, and anxiety — along with rocky, unsatisfying relationships. (Honestly, …

Research on traumatic stress supports paradigm shift

In the mental health system, the biomedical model is the dominant paradigm. It depicts mental disorders as chronic diseases requiring lifelong treatment with medication (like diabetes or high blood pressure). This model of mental illness has been under attack in the US, where an estimated 20 percent of the population regularly takes psychiatric medications. Arguments …

Wired for distraction

USA Today identified 2010 as “The Year Technology Replaced Talking.” Rather than face-to-face communication, it seems a significant number of us prefer using cellphones and other wireless devices to keep in touch, even when the person we want to talk to is just a spoken word away. (93% of Americans have cellphones/wireless connections.) In her …

Can we let children outgrow their ‘mental disorders’?

From 1994 to 2003, there was a forty-fold increase in the treatment of youths for bipolar disorder — from 20,000 to 800,000 young people in the United States alone. In almost all cases, these children were treated with medications that had not been extensively tested for use in the very young. Thus, nearly one million children and adolescents …

Why is suicide increasing in midlife?

What leads a middle-aged person to contemplate suicide? A failed relationship? Financial devastation? Drug abuse? All of these explanations have been suggested for an unexpected increase in suicides in persons 45 to 54 years old. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-P), this age group had a 20 percent increase in suicides …