Tag: adverse childhood experiences

How chronic traumatization interferes with meeting goals and completing actions

Trauma-related stress reveals itself in many ways: flashbacks, nightmares, emotional overwhelm, shame, obsessive thoughts, decreased concentration, apathy, and even loss of a sense of self. When trauma-related stress is chronic, which is a common outcome of early life abuse and neglect, these symptoms become a way to live without actively recalling the past. As one …

Dreaming of a Safe America

The United States, perhaps like all nations and all people, is caught in unconscious, conflicting drives and denied vulnerabilities. In Dreaming Up America, historical novelist Russell Banks identified three dreams at the heart of America’s unconscious conflicts, dreams that originally drew people to America: “There was El Dorado, the City of Gold that Cortez and …

Imagining suicide

Twice weekly, I commute across the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve taken this route for over a year, yet the view still consumes me. Whether marveling at the Bridge, seeing the sun (or fog) mingle with the Pacific Ocean, or eyeing the cramped San Francisco skyline that signals the end of my workday, I feel part …

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.” …

Embracing the shadow side of creativity

In a blog post, “What is Creativity?,” Maria Popova quoted designer Charles Eames on the cultural obsession with the creative process: “Recent years have shown a growing preoccupation with the circumstances surrounding the creative act and a search for the ingredients that promote creativity. This preoccupation suggests we are in a special kind of trouble — …

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 …

Love and the split self

The other night, I watched the movie, Take This Waltz (2011). (I try not to give the ending away, but if it’s in your movie queue, you might want to pass on reading the rest of this paragraph.) The protagonist, a young Canadian woman, is happily married, although not excited about her life.  She writes …

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 …

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 …

Foretelling extinction?

Mental illness has reached epidemic proportions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates eighteen percent of American adults suffer from a mental disorder each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. These numbers, however, do not do justice to the burden of mental illness in our …

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 …