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How Redefining Trauma Could Help Cure PTSD

Some psychologists say the definition of trauma needs refining to include the importance of post-trauma environments. In receptive and supportive environments, instances of PTSD drop.

What’s the Latest Development?

Advances in experimental psychology suggest the need to redefine what constitutes a traumatic event. Researchers at Emory and George Washington Universities have found that in both rats and humans, the environment into which a person is placed—a person who has experienced a traumatic event—helps to determine how well he or she will recover from that trauma. In a study of Nepalese child soldiers, experimenters found that in villages which readily and happily reintegrated them, via rituals or conventions specifically designed to do so, the children made full recoveries. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The findings of the child soldier study are echoed in studies of American soldiers returning home with PTSD. In communities where soldiers can reconnect with supportive people and new opportunities, recovering from trauma is far more likely. “So is the traumatic event more than just the event itself—the event plus some crucial aspect of social environment that has the potential to either dull or amplify its effects?” Some psychologists are calling for trauma to be redefined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to recognize the importance of a rehabilitation environment. 

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