W6 Activity: PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is something that impacts people worldwide, from combat veterans to children in and fleeing war torn areas. It also has an interesting history. While it is not a new experience for humankind, as we’ve been exposed to trauma since the beginning of our species, the way that we view the illness, the stigmas attached to it, and the way that we treat those who experience PTSD has changed drastically since the twentieth century. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that, “From an historical perspective, the significant change ushered in by the PTSD concept was the stipulation that the etiological agent was outside the individual (i.e., a traumatic event) rather than an inherent individual weakness (i.e., a traumatic neurosis). The key to understanding the scientific basis and clinical expression of PTSD is the concept of ‘trauma.’” [1] How PTSD is viewed and understood has been under constant review, moving from the notion that it was an internal personal weakness to being something that can affect everyone and is caused by external factors, such as combat, attack, disaster, and trauma of various kinds. Currently, examples of PTSD are not hard to find. From the United States involvement in the longest war in its history to the children that are fleeing Syria, trauma is all around us. Organizations are working to help people understand the experiences that these survivors go through, to help bridge that gap between society and the trauma survivors, and to help those with PTSD heal.

This is where anthropologists, alongside other medical professionals and organizations dedicated to supporting those who struggle with returning to a normal life, come into play. Anthropologists like Erin Finley have done field work and engaged with those who suffer from PTSD, specifically in the United States. She is working to understand how PTSD functions, how it affects people, and how we can help.

[1] Friedman, Matthew J. “PTSD History and Overview.” February 23, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2016. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/ptsd-overview.asp.

Lende, Daniel. “Anthropology and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans: An Interview with Erin Finley | Neuroanthropology.” July 18, 2011. Accessed August 14, 2016. http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2011/07/18/anthropology-and-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-among-veterans-an-interview-with-erin-finley/.

Finley, Erin. “Cultural Aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Thinking on Meaning and Risk.” June 4, 2008. Accessed August 14, 2016. https://neuroanthropology.net/2008/06/04/cultural-aspects-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-thinking-on-meaning-and-risk/.

2 thoughts on “W6 Activity: PTSD

  1. It sounds like the anthropologist in this article is using the Biological approach because she is still working on the condition and what causes PTSD. I think anthropology can definitely be a resource with PTSD is trying to find the source but also to help in other countries. This is because anthropologist will see things from the eyes of the indigenous people not through American eyes. That is because simple things that we see might be something catastrophic in there culture. For example if you took people from India and they lived next to a butcher/ slaughter house in America we would see nothing wrong with that but to them that would be unbelievable cruel. That is because the cow is a sacred animal in India and living there could deniably give someone from India PTSD. This is just one example of how a anthropologist could see a problem that normal people might not notice. But I defiantly see how medical anthropology could help in the evaluation of and study of PTSD. They would also be helpful in the process of trying to analyze and figure out the root causes of this disease. I must admit I have know about PTSD for a long time but as in your post never really thought about it as a disease from conditions that affect the person from the outside not a “weakness” on the inside.

  2. Hello Linsey,

    Your article is very thorough and I like your choice of PTSD for your post. The biological approach, and experiential approach are definitely used in the Lende article. When Finley is interviewed, she describes how the biological causes of PTSD were previously unknown, but modern medicine has now provided health care professionals with knowledge of PTSD’s effects on a patient’s brain and how treatment is now available. She continues however, to talk about her field work, where she interviewed veterans and other patients suffering from PTSD and they provided her narratives of their experiences with the disease. Finley did excellent work bringing the biological and personal aspects of a disease together in a way that it can be better understood by medical professionals and patients.

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