Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder: Treatable?

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Dr Prendergast received the forty-something man and woman, two siblings, in his office promptly at 10 a.m. They were concerned by their elderly father’s state of mind. Since his retirement, he’d been spending a lot of time brooding on the past.

Dr Prendergast: “You say your father survived the Holocaust?”

Man: “Yes.”

Dr Prendergast: “And the problem is?”

Woman: “Well, he seems of late, now that he’s got more leisure time to dwell on the past, to have become very embittered by the experiences he had to endure as a Jew during the war. Not only that -- but he’s been going to area high schools to give talks, to share those experiences with the students.”

Dr Prendergast: “Has he?”

Man: “Oh, yes. His degree of bitterness is so intense we believe it has reached clinical proportions. Together with an obsessive need to make sure no one is left unaware, in any doubt, of what he had to endure.”

Dr Prendergast: “Possibly a case of PTED, do you think?”

Woman: “PTED?”

Dr Prendergast: “That’s ‘post traumatic embitterment disorder.’”

Man: “Possibly. . . What are some of its symptoms?”

Dr Prendergast: “According to Dr Michael Linden, our German colleague, who discovered this disturbing pattern of behaviour,
what we’re dealing with here is a pathological reaction to a single, negative life event -- in this instance, the Holocaust -- now being obsessed over as grossly unjust, as violation of his person on a very deep level, and a compulsion to showcase his suffering for all the world to see.”

Woman: “That seems familiar.”

Dr Prendergast: “According to Dr Linden, sufferers of PTED have a tendency to rewind and re-run intrusive thoughts and memories over and over again, long, long after the triggering-event has come and gone. In addition, they’re also consumed by an intense desire for revenge. For payback.”

Man: “It’s interesting you mention that. Because, Dad has told us that he’s seen that new Quentin Tarantino movie, Inglourious Basterds, about a half-dozen times, claiming he finds its motif of Jews avenging the Holocaust to be ‘therapeutic’ for him.”

Dr Prendergast: “There you go. The appetite for vengeance!”

Woman: “So what you’re saying is, persons who feel they’ve been especially wronged in life, been humiliated and endured injustice in some form are especially prone to this brain disorder?”

Dr Prendergast: “Exactly. Moreover, such people sometimes show a righteous, missionary zeal in their endeavour to improve matters. For example, you say he’s been going to area schools to share his experiences with the students. To promote tolerance, no doubt?”

Man: “I believe so.”

Dr Prendergast: “Here let me quote Dr Linden’s own words from this text regarding PTED sufferers: ‘These people don’t have the feeling that they must change, but rather have the idea that the world should change or the oppressor should change.’”

Woman: “Interesting.”

Dr Prendergast: “However, I caution you that PTED has not as yet been given official recognition as a mental disorder. That is, it has yet to be listed in our psychiatric Bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Nevertheless, we’re very hopeful that when the fifth edition is published, in 2012, that PTED will be among the newly-discovered pathologies to be included. That will, in fact, constitute the DSM’s first major revision since 1994.”

Man: “Will that make a big difference?”

Dr Prendergast: “I should think so. Consider, for example, how it impacted Western society after the DSM delisted homosexality as a mental disorder in the 1986 edition.”

NOTE: The foregoing was a fictional account of what might lie just around the corner -- or not. Perhaps, Holocaust survivors will be put into a special category and exempted where can’t-let-go-of-it bitterness tied to PTED is concerned.

For additional information concerning the scourge of this newfound malady google PTED and the name Dr Michael Linden.

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