PTSD in SocietyThis is a featured page

Social PTSD
How does a passive society like Australia's contribute to the intergenerational transmission of PTSD symptoms?

Back to our scenario...Vietnam Vet is retured to Aussie society and forced to adapt yet again to another (albeit, not as extreme) hostile environment. Their genetic adaptations come back with them and are passed onto their children, who, in turn, pass it on to their children - the grandchildren of the Vietnam Vet.

A human condition really becomes an issue when there is a mismatch between the behaviour of the individual and the norms of the society in which they live. If we lived in a hostile environment, then the adaptive responses we call PTSD would be the norm and other behaviours would be inappropriate. Thus children born into societies and cultures where there is a long history of violence will have significant difficulties adjusting to Australian society and Australian children will not survive long in their society. Thus PTSD can also be considered a social condition, rather than a personal one.

Social PTSD - Inheriting the Vietnam War Legacy

Our society sets certain standards of behaviour that must be upheld and adhered to. Failure to do so results in an unacceptance of that behaviour such that it is deemed inappropriate, abnormal, extreme and deviant. One of the most influencial and powerful behaviour management tools in our society is our education system. Children who have developed to the cusp of self-awareness are thrust into schools and forced to adapt to strict behavioural boundaries that were set by the previous generation. The principles of schooling are based on a "one size fits all" policy. Learning experiences are standardised, and thus, so are the children. All are treated with the same initial set of principles that, in most cases of familial PTSD, are far from appropriate. Evidence indicates this policy of standardisation both ascerbates and perpetuates the symptoms of PTSD in children entering the institution of school.

Social PTSD - Inheriting the Vietnam War Legacy

PTSD is considered by mental health professionals an event-related condition (APA, 2000). This means that if you did not experience a life-threatening event, you cannot have PTSD. The son or daughter of a Vietnam Veteran (or grandchild for that matter) cannot have PTSD if they did not go to war, or experience a life-threatening event.....yet they can have a condition that closely resembles the symptomology. Mental health professionals give these groups of complex reactions to a misunderstanding environment certain labels such as ADHD, Autism, Aspergers, Bipola, Mania and other anxiety and depressive symptoms. However, they generally fail to give consideration to the presence of familial factors such as comorbid conditions in their parents and grandparents. It is also frequently overlooked whether the child was conceived pre, or post trauma.

Therefore a significant amount of understanding about a child's presenting condition can be overlooked and neglected. The subsequent diagnosis is thus ignorant of these influences and the medication and treatment will often have little or no effect. Take Ritalin for example. It is used to manage the behaviour of children with ADHD. It is also known to destroy Pyramid Cells in their developing brain. Pyramid cells are critical in memory consolidation, retention and expression. Thus children who have been prescribed Ritalin for extended periods during critical periods of neurological development, may have memory difficulties in their early adulthood and for the rest of their lives....its amost a "premedicated dementure".

Social PTSD - Inheriting the Vietnam War Legacy

Now for the scarey bit....

Drugs alter the body's natural environment. They "fool" the body and brain. In essence, they provide an artificial environment. We have already discussed how the body adapts to changes in its environment by adapting genetics. This occurs in relation to everything from life-threatening trauma to diet. It explains the obesity epidemic. "You are what you eat". If we eat genetically modified (GM) foods our bodies absorb that genetic information and we may be taking on those characteristics ourselves. Consider heightened levels of growth hormones in chickens and the development of excessive breast tissue in middle-aged men. (Yes I am aware that men create higher levels of estrogen when they reach middle age, but the historical evidence does not support the widespread extent that we are currently witnessing). There are increasingly more and more chemicals, additives and preservatives in our food. Perhaps, on their own, these chemicals, additives and preservatives may not be harmful, but, when they combine in our bloodstream they may produce a chemical cocktail that has consequences we can only imagine in our nightmares.

Social PTSD - Inheriting the Vietnam War Legacy

However, for many parents Ritalin is like a gift from God. It settles their child and allows them to be almost manageable. Yet in the same way that panadol does not "cure" a headache - it simply masks the symptoms until the brain can produce its own chemical balance - homeostasis, Ritalin and similar drugs do not "cure" ADHD. The child still has ADHD. (And probably a memory impairment to boot).

So, instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole, we should chip the hole until the peg can fit. Instead of trying to change the child (evolution is difficult to reverse) to fit the system, perhaps the system can change to fit the child. Focus on what the child CAN DO instead of what they cannot. Adapt their learning environment and syllabus to suit their specific talents and abilities. And this starts at home with their parents.

This scenario has a ripple effect throughout the individual's life. It affects them again, in high school, employment, relationships, etc. These key social institutions need to be aware of the impact and implications of the continued neglect of this human condition.
©Copyright 2008 Ken O’Brien

Latest page update: made by Combat_Ken , May 11 2008, 8:08 PM EDT (about this update About This Update Combat_Ken Edited by Combat_Ken

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